>From: "Edward Lopez" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]>
>Subject: Excessive drinking
>Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 18:15:40 -0500
>In a Forbes article last year, a professor of health at Indiana University 
>notes that since the increase in the legal drinking age to 21 (1987), total 
>amount of alcohol consumed dropped but the incidence of EXCESSIVE drinking 
>increased among 18-20 year olds.
>1. any takers on why?

My theory on this has always been that the incidence of alcohol overdosage 
goes up as drinking age increases (though I've never seen anything to 
support this, it seems logically sound).  The reasoning is that those who 
drink illegally have a great disincentive to go for professional help - the 
police, the hospitals, etc. - and will thus try and solve the problem 
themselves.  This frequently leads to fatalities.

On to the task at hand, though.  Most adults tend to drink in public places 
- restaurants, bars, etc. -  which are inaccessible, or difficult to access, 
for underage drinkers.  As a result, underage drinkers drink in private 
circumstances - parties, with small groups of friends, at home when their 
parents are away, etc - where there are fewer "social flags" to indicate 
when one has "had too much."  To put it simply, it's easier to tell if 
you're making an ass of yourself when there's a crowd around, then when only 
a few (equally intoxicated) friends are.

To rephrase it in the jargon of the profession: drinking-age restrictions 
encourage drinking in private, where the social cost of excessive drinking 
(e.g., bad behavior) is lost.  This results in higher incentives to drink to 
excess on those few occasions when drinking without reprisal is possible.

>2. is a "forbidden fruit" argument consistent with economic rationality?

Not being a fan of the rationality hypothesis, I can't answer this fairly.


>Edward J. López
>Assistant Professor
>Department of Economics
>University of North Texas
>P.O. Box 311457
>Denton, TX 76203-1457
>Tel: 940.369.7005
>Fax: 940.565.4426
>Web: www.econ.unt.edu/elopez

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