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Am Econ J Appl Econ. 2009 Jan 1;1(1):164-182.

The Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Mortality: Regression Discontinuity Evidence from the Minimum Drinking Age.

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The Paul Merage School of Business, University of California, Irvine, 428 SB, Irvine, CA 92697-3125 (e-mail: ).


We estimate the effect of alcohol consumption on mortality using the minimum drinking age in a regression discontinuity design. We find large and immediate increases in drinking at age 21, including a 21 percent increase in recent drinking days. We also find a discrete 9 percent increase in the mortality rate at age 21, primarily due to motor vehicle accidents, alcohol-related deaths, and suicides. We estimate a 10 percent increase in the number of drinking days for young adults results in a 4.3 percent increase in mortality. Our results suggest policies that reduce drinking among young adults can have substantial public health benefits. (JEL I12, I18).

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