Forecasting the Effect of the Amethyst Initiative on College Drinking


  • We dedicate this paper to the memory of our friend and colleague, Dr. Jawaid Rasul, who passed away shortly after the completion of this work.

Reprint requests: Ben G. Fitzpatrick, PhD, Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90045; Tel.:  310-338-7892; Fax:  310-338-3768; E-mail:



A number of college presidents have endorsed the Amethyst Initiative, a call to consider lowering the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA). Our objective is to forecast the effect of the Amethyst Initiative on college drinking.


A system model of college drinking simulates MLDA changes through (i) a decrease in heavy episodic drinking (HED) because of the lower likelihood of students drinking in unsupervised settings where they model irresponsible drinking (misperception), and (ii) an increase in overall drinking among currently underage students because of increased social availability of alcohol (wetness).


For the proportion of HEDs on campus, effects of large decreases in misperception of responsible drinking behavior were more than offset by modest increases in wetness.


For the effect of lowering the MLDA, it appears that increases in social availability of alcohol have a stronger impact on drinking behavior than decreases in misperceptions.