Do Minimum Wages Really Increase Youth Drinking and Drunk Driving?

Melinda Pitts, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Laura M. Argys, University of Colorado, Denver

A recent study by Adams, Blackburn and Cotti (ABC) found that increases in minimum wages were positively related to drunk driving-related traffic fatalities for those ages 16-to-20. However, the primary mechanism through which this relationship is hypothesized to occur—increased alcohol consumption caused by minimum wage-induced income gains—remains empirically unexplored. Using data from the National and State Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) and the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) and an identification strategy identical to ABC, we find little evidence that increases in minimum wages lead to increases in alcohol consumption or drunk-driving among teenagers. These results suggest a much smaller set of plausible causal channels to explain ABC’s findings.

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Presented in Session 53: Policy Influences on Adolescent Health