2018/19: Is changing the minimum legal drinking age an effective policy tool?
In year 1991 regional governments in Spain started a period of implementation of a law that rose the Minimum Legal Drinking Age from 16 to 18 years old. This process was fully completed in year 2015. To evaluate the effects of this change on consumption of legal drugs and its related morbidity outcomes, we construct a regional panel dataset on alcohol consumption and hospital entry registers and compare variation in several measures of prevalence between the treatment group (16-18 years old individuals) and the control group (20-22 years old individuals). Our findings show important differences by gender. Firstly, our main result regarding overall drinking prevalence show reductions ranging from -11.57% for the subsample including both genders to -14.31% for the subsample of males. Secondly, effects on males are driven mainly by reductions in beer with alcohol consumption (-8.98%). Thirdly, effects on wine and/or cava drinking prevalence range from -12.62% for the subsample including both genders to -9.65% for the subsample of females. No effects regarding overall smoking prevalence are found. Fourthly, we do not find evidence that these reductions in alcohol consumption are translated into hospitalizations related to alcohol overdose. To our knowledge, this is the first paper providing evidence on gender-based differences to policies aimed at reducing alcohol consumption. Our results have important policy implications for countries currently considering changes in the Minimum Legal Drinking Age.