Does Drinking Really Decrease in Bad Times?

38 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2001

See all articles by Christopher J. Ruhm

Christopher J. Ruhm

University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

William E. Black

Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.

Date Written: October 2001

Abstract

This paper investigates the relationship between macroeconomic conditions, alcohol use, and drinking problems using individual-level data from the 1987-1999 years of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. We confirm the procyclical variation in overall drinking identified in previous research using aggregate sales data and show that this largely results from changes in consumption among existing drinkers, rather than movements into or out of drinking. Moreover, the decrease in alcohol use occurring during bad economic times is concentrated among heavy consumers, with light drinking actually increasing in these periods. We find no evidence that the decline in overall drinking masks a rise in alcohol use for persons becoming unemployed during contractions, suggesting that any stress-induced increases in consumption are more than offset by reductions resulting from changes in economic factors such as lower incomes.

Suggested Citation

Ruhm, Christopher J. and Black, William E., Does Drinking Really Decrease in Bad Times? (October 2001). NBER Working Paper No. w8511, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=285643

Christopher J. Ruhm (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy ( email )

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William E. Black

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