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Beer Taxes, the Legal Drinking Age, and Youth Motor Vehicle Fatalities

NCJ Number
Journal of Legal Studies Volume: 16 Issue: 2 Dated: (June 1987) Pages: 351-374
H Saffer; M Grossman
Date Published
24 pages
Time series data from all 48 contiguous States from 1975-1981 were used to determine whether a uniform national drinking age of 21 or an increase in the Federal excise tax on alcohol would be more effective in reducing motor vehicle fatalities in youths between ages 15 and 24.
The analysis focused on the beer tax because beer is the drink of choice among youths who drink alcoholic beverages and because the alcohol in distilled spirits is taxed 3 times as heavily as the alcohol in beer. In addition, the real value of the Federal excise tax on all forms of alcoholic beverages has declined since 1951, as has the real price of all alcoholic beverages. Moreover, evidence exists that beer drinkers are very sensitive to price. The study used weighted least-squares regression analysis for three age groups: youths aged 15 through 17, youths aged 18 through 20, and youths aged 21 through 24. Significant effects of the beer tax were found for the youths in all three age groups. The effects of a drinking age of 21 were significant for youths aged 18 through 20. The effects of the tax were much stronger than the effects of drinking age legislation. Limitations of the findings, data tables, and 41 footnotes.