An investigation of the effect of privatization of retail sales of alcohol on consumption and traffic accidents in Alberta, Canada


Björn Trolldal
Stockholm University
SE-106 91 Stockholm


Aims  Privatization of the retail sale of alcohol in Alberta took place primarily between the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of this privatization on alcohol sales and on the incidence of fatal motor vehicle traffic accidents in the province.

Data and method  Interrupted time-series analysis (ARIMA) with a quasi-experimental control area design was used, and all series were differenced to remove long-term trends. Canada, with the exception of Alberta, was the control area. The effects of privatization were measured by means of created privatization variables. In the analyses of the effects of privatization on alcohol sales, the inhabitants’ disposable income and alcohol prices were used as control variables. The study period was 1950–2000. When effects on the number of fatal motor vehicle traffic accidents were analysed the number of road motor vehicle registrations was used as a control variable, and the study period was 1950–98.

Findings  Privatization had a significant permanent effect on the sale of spirits, but the effect was not large enough to affect total sales. The effect on wine and beer sales was not significant. There was no significant effect on the number of fatal motor vehicle traffic accidents.

Conclusion  The fact that sales on the wholesale level continued to be monopolized, along with the fact that alcohol sales were never allowed in ordinary grocery stores, may explain the lack of any larger effects of privatization on alcohol sales in Alberta.