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Faculty Mentor

Patricia Ahmed

Abstract

Underage drinking is a huge problem in the United States. Rational choice and deterrence theories suggest that the best way to deal with the problem is to create and enforce strict laws against underage drinking. However, are these truly effective mechanisms in this regard? This paper explores these issues by analyzing underage alcohol consumption patterns in three sets of states classified as “lax”, “strict” and “typical” in terms of their underage drinking laws using data from the 2012 National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). T-tests did not show significant differences between underage alcohol use and binge drinking in the six randomly sampled typical states, strict states and the national averages. T-test suggested that alcohol use in the lax states was somewhat lower than the national average. Logistic regression results did not show a significant difference in the rates of underage alcohol use and binge drinking across the three different categories. They do, however, show a slight decrease in underage drinking over time, holding state type constant. The findings suggest that perhaps tougher laws, in and of themselves, do little to address this problem of underage alcohol consumption.

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