State Panel Estimates of the Effects of the Minimum Legal Drinking Age on Alcohol Consumption for 1950 to 2002

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Despite strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA), recent movements have attempted to evoke policy changes that will allow 18- to 20-year-olds to buy and drink alcohol legally. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of both raising and lowering the MLDA on per capita ethanol (EtOH) consumption in longer and more accurate time series panel than any previous study.


Generalized least squares model specifications controlling for income, unemployment rates, and population characteristics were implemented using MLDA and aggregate EtOH consumption data from U.S. states from 1950 to 2002.


Results from the full 1950 to 2002 period, which include both the lowering and raising of the MLDA, show that an increase in the MLDA by 3 years was associated with decreases in per capita total EtOH consumption (1.51% reduction), as well as in beer (2.31% reduction) and spirits consumption (1.86% reduction).


Lowering the MLDA would likely induce increased rates of drinking and subsequent alcohol-related consequences. If increased consumption is of concern, policymakers should resist movements to lower the MLDA.

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