SWOV Catalogus


Heavy alcohol use and crime : evidence from underage drunk driving laws.
20061771 ST [electronic version only]
Carpenter, C.S.
Journal of Law & Economics, Forthcoming, August 2007, 32 p., 28 ref.

Samenvatting This paper provides new evidence on the causal relationship between alcohol use and crime. I use variation induced by adoption of very strict underage “Zero Tolerance” (ZT) drunk driving laws, which significantly reduced binge drinking (5 or more drinks at one sitting) by males age 18-20 but did not affect slightly older males age 22-24. I use age-specific arrest data for police agencies in MSAs to estimate the effect of ZT laws on crime, controlling for both year and police-agency fixed effects. I find that ZT laws – which lowered the BAC threshold at which underage youth are deemed to be driving under the influence – significantly increased the fraction of adult male DUI arrests attributable to 18-20 year olds. I also find that ZT laws decreased the fraction of nuisance crime and property crime arrests attributable to 18-20 year olds by about 3-4 percent, with no effects on violent crime. These results are validated by important null findings: ZT laws did not affect arrests in any crime category for slightly older males age 22-24. In fact, the estimated reductions in property crime by single year of age exhibit a discontinuity around the predicted age threshold. These results suggest that heavy episodic alcohol use causes the commission of property crime. Though the overall magnitude of the property crime reduction from ZT laws is small, the implied economic savings (i.e. the dollar value of goods damaged or stolen) equals $150 million annually. (Author/publisher)
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