NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Alcohol Taxes May Pacify Colleges And Abusive Homes

May 24, 2000

Alcohol has always had negative effects on society. A series of recent studies say that increasing alcohol's price through a higher tax will reduce college violence, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and spousal abuse by cutting consumption.

Using data on state alcohol tax rates (which vary considerably) and various social problems, researchers found that a 10 percent tax on beer would decrease perpetrators of property damage from 7.5 percent of the student population to 7.1 percent; students involved in fights would drop from 31.2 percent to 30.2 percent; and sexual misconduct would drop from 14.3 percent to 13.8 percent. Even small percentage drops would be significant given the large number (14.5 million) of college students.

Another study on the spread of STDs says that:

  • A $1 increase in the per-gallon liquor tax would reduce the spread of gonorrhea by 2.1 percent
  • And a $0.20 increase on the price of a six pack of beer would reduce the spread of gonorrhea by 8.9 percent with even greater effects on syphilis rates.

Finally, a study on abusive homes concluded that if the price of alcohol were raised husbands would be less likely to kick, bite, punch, beat, choke or threaten to use a gun or knife on their wives, with a ten percent increase in the price of an ounce of pure alcohol decreasing the probability of wife abuse from anywhere from 10 to 90 percent.

The study states this is true among all races, but applies only to men. Alcohol consumption does not appear to affect husband beating.

Sources: Sara Markowitz, "Alcohol Regulation and Violence on College Campus," Working Paper No. 7129, May 1999, National Bureau of Economic Research; Sara Markowitz, "The Price of Alcohol, Wife Abuse, and Husband Abuse," Working Paper No. 6916, January 1999, National Bureau of Economic Research; Harrell Chesson, Paul Harrison, and William J. Kassler, "Sex under the Influence: The Effect of Alcohol Policy on Sexually Transmitted Disease Rates in the United States," Journal of Law and Economics, April 2000.

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