Thursday, July 15, 2010

Does regulating alcohol reduce crime?

Alcohol use has an impact on crime in many ways. Perpetrators maybe mentally impaired by alcohol abuse, may be motivated by an addiction, or venues were alcohol is consumed may give opportunities for crime. Also, being a consumer of alcohol may increase the likelihood of victimization. What economic policy means are available to reduce crime from alcohol use? Obviously, you want to reduce alcohol use and abuse, but let us for once leave the health consequences aside (assume they are already internalized by the consumer).

Christopher Carpenter and Carlos Dobkin perform a meta-analysis of the literature and find that taxing alcohol and putting age limits to its consumption are the best policies. Restricting when or where alcohol can be consumed has, however, little impact on alcohol-related crime.

Beyond what the literature says, I have always been puzzled how different cultures deal differently with alcohol. For example, Italians drink wine already as kids, yet you rarely find drunken Italians. In fact, the only drunks I have encountered in Italy where American students and British tourists. My anecdotal evidence is that the more regulated alcohol consumption is, the more people are drunk. But the causality may very well run the other way. For the current paper, though, what really matters is how alcohol consumption translates into criminal behavior. And the literature seems here counter-intuitive to me.


Mark B. said...

It is true that it is primarily a culture thing. I think drunk driving laws should be strictly enforced, and that as a nation we need to focus more on educating our youth about responsible drinking habits.

lyndonnorris said...
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