How do Minimum Legal Drinking Ages Work? Evidence from CanadaISER External Seminars

We use regression discontinuity methods to show that when Canadian youth are no longer subject to the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA) their mortality rates increase by 10 percent and that this is almost entirely attributable to motor vehicle fatalities. Although popular perception about the cause of heightened mortality risks among youths is that they are due to heavy drinking by those with limited experience consuming alcohol, we provide evidence based on gender-specific comparisons of alcohol-related behaviors that this is not the case. Specifically, although both men and women substantially increase the proportion of days on which they drink at the MLDA, we find that women exhibit very large increases in binge drinking and modest increases in first exposure to alcohol at the MLDA but men have almost no increases in either. Surprisingly, the increase in death rates at the MLDA among men is much larger than the increase among women. One explanation for this puzzle is that men report very large increases in the frequency of riding with a driver who had been drinking while women report much smaller increases. Our findings suggest that most of the increase in mortality at the MLDA is attributable to an increase in the frequency of alcohol consumption which leads to an increase in the frequency of riding with impaired drivers.

Presented by:

Kitt Carpenter (University of California Irvine)

Date & time:

25 Jun 2012 15:00 pm


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