Underage alcohol use, delinguency, and criminal activity

Michael T. French, Johanna C. Maclean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Since 1988, the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) has been 21 years for all 50 US states. The increasing prevalence of teenagers driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol and the resulting traffic accidents were two main reasons for raising the MLDA to 21 years. Following the passage of this legislation, several published studies have found that the higher MLDA is associated with a significant reduction in both fatal and non-fatal accidents. While the relationship between MLDA and DUI events among young adults has been extensively studied, less information is available on other potential consequences of underage drinking. The present study uses data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a recent nationally representative survey, to investigate the effects of underage drinking on a variety of delinquency and criminal activity consequences. After controlling for the endogeneity of alcohol use where appropriate, we find strong evidence that various measures of alcohol consumption are related both to delinquency and to criminal activity. However, the findings are not uniform across gender as we find striking differences between males and females. These results have interesting policy and public health implications regarding underage drinking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1261-1281
Number of pages21
JournalHealth Economics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2006


  • Criminal activity
  • Delinguency
  • Underage drinking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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