DOES THE MINIMUM LEGAL DRINKING AGE SAVE LIVES?

Authors

  • JEFFREY A. MIRON,

    1. Miron: Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138. Phone 617-495-4129, Fax 617-495-8570, E-mail miron@fas.harvard.edu.
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    • *

      We thank Guido Imbens and two anonymous referees for valuable comments on a previous draft.

  • ELINA TETELBAUM

    1. Tetelbaum: Law Student, Yale University, 111 Park Street, Apt 14 O, New Haven CT 06511, Phone 917-806-9052.
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    • *

      We thank Guido Imbens and two anonymous referees for valuable comments on a previous draft.


Abstract

The minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) is widely believed to save lives by reducing traffic fatalities among underage drivers. Further, the Federal Uniform Drinking Age Act, which pressured all states to adopt an MLDA of 21, is regarded as having contributed enormously to this life-saving effect. This article challenges both claims. State-level panel data for the past 30 yr show that any nationwide impact of the MLDA is driven by states that increased their MLDA prior to any inducement from the federal government. Even in early-adopting states, the impact of the MLDA did not persist much past the year of adoption. The MLDA appears to have only a minor impact on teen drinking. (JEL H11, K42)

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