This paper uses a regression discontinuity design to estimate the impact of the minimum legal drinking age laws on alcohol consumption, smoking, and marijuana use among young adults.
Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1997 Cohort), we find that granting legal access to alcohol at age 21 leads to an increase in several measures of alcohol consumption, including an up to a 13 percentage point increase in the probability of drinking.
Furthermore, this effect is robust under several different parametric and non-parametric models.
We also find some evidence that the discrete jump in alcohol consumption at age 21 has negative spillover effects on marijuana use but does not affect the smoking habits of young adults.
Our results indicate that although the change in alcohol consumption habits of young adults following their 21st birthday is less severe than previously known, policies that are designed to reduce drinking among young adults may have desirable impacts and can create public health benefits.
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