Minimum legal drinking age and the social gradient in binge drinking

Alexander Ahammer, Stefan Bauernschuster, Martin Halla, Hannah Lachenmaier

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review


Low minimum legal drinking ages (MLDAs), as prevalent in many European countries, are severely understudied. We use rich survey and administrative data to estimate the impact of the Austrian MLDA of 16 on teenage drinking behavior and morbidity. Regression discontinuity estimates show that legal access to alcohol increases the frequency and intensity of drinking, which results in more
hospital admissions due to alcohol intoxication. The effects are stronger for boys and teenagers with low socioeconomic background. Evidence suggests that the policy’s impact cannot be fully explained by access. Data from an annual large-scale field study show that about 25 percent of retailers sell even hard liquor to underage customers. More generally, perceived access to alcohol
is very high and hardly changes at the MLDA. However, teenagers consider binge drinking at weekends to be less harmful after gaining legal access.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102571
JournalJournal of Health Economics
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes

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