Driving Me to Drink: The Relationship between Ride-Hailing Services and Alcohol Consumption

15 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2019

See all articles by Gordon Burtch

Gordon Burtch

Boston University - Questrom School of Business

Brad N. Greenwood

George Mason University - School of Business

Jeffrey McCullough

University of Michigan

Date Written: August 8, 2019


Background: Alcohol consumption is associated with a wide range of adverse health consequences and is a leading cause of preventable deaths. Ride hailing services such as Uber have been found prevent alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities. These services may, however, facilitate alcohol consumption generally and binge drinking in particular.

Objective: To measure the impact of ride hailing services on the extent and intensity of alcohol consumption. We allow these associations to depend on population density as the utilization of ride hailing services likely varies across markets.

Methods: We exploit the phased rollout of the ride hailing platform Uber using a difference in differences approach. We use this variation to measure changes in alcohol consumption among a local population following Uber’s entry. Data are drawn from Uber press releases to capture platform entry and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Systems (BRFSS) Annual Survey measures alcohol consumption in 113 metropolitan areas. Models are estimated using fixed effects Poisson regression. Pre- and post-entry trends are used to validate this approach.

Results: Ride hailing has no effect on the extent of alcohol consumption in high- 0.61 [95% CI: - 0.05% to 1.28%] or low- 0.61 [95% CI: -0.05% to 1.28%] density markets, but increases the binge drinking rate by 0.71 [95% CI: 0.13% to 1.29%]. This corresponds to a 4% increase in binge-drinking within an MSA.

Conclusion: Ride hailing services appear to stimulate risky behavior, in the form of binge drinking, which has been associated with a wide array of adverse health outcomes. Drunk driving rates have fallen for more than a decade, while the incidence of binge drinking has continued to climb. Both trends may be accelerated by ride hailing services. This suggests that health information messaging should increase emphasis on the direct dangers of alcohol consumption and binge drinking.

Keywords: Binge drinking, ride hailing, alcohol consumption, difference in difference, Uber

JEL Classification: I1, I12

Suggested Citation

Burtch, Gordon and Greenwood, Brad and McCullough, Jeffrey, Driving Me to Drink: The Relationship between Ride-Hailing Services and Alcohol Consumption (August 8, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3490803 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3490803

Gordon Burtch

Boston University - Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States

Brad Greenwood

George Mason University - School of Business ( email )

VA 22030
United States

Jeffrey McCullough (Contact Author)

University of Michigan ( email )

1415 Washington Heights
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
7349361189 (Phone)
7347644338 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://https://sph.umich.edu/faculty-profiles/mccullough-jeffrey.html

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