In examining alcohol control and public safety, it is generally best to consider more than one state at a time and more than one year’s worth of data. Data for a single state or a single year may be influenced by population size, socioeconomic status, weather or other factors dependent on that particular state or year, but independent of the alcohol controls themselves.
A 2010 study by Donald J. Boudreaux and Julia Williams examined Centers for Disease Control data for 2001 through 2005 on total alcohol-related deaths.[*] Boudreaux, an economist with George Mason University, and Williams, a private consultant at Regulatory Economics Group LLC, followed common practice and divided states into “control” and “license” states. In control states, state government acts as a wholesaler of spirituous liquor, buying from producers almost every legal drop of hard liquor ultimately sold by retailers and consumed in the state. In license states, government simply licenses private wholesale and retail providers.
By this definition, 18 states, including Michigan, are control states, while 32 states are license states.[†] The District of Columbia is also a licensing jurisdiction.
Reviewing the data for total alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 persons for control states and license states,[‡] Boudreaux and Williams concluded, “Clearly, there is not much difference here between the two kinds of states.” They added:
Breaking these data down on a state-by-state basis, and using various regression analyses to estimate the relationship between alcohol-related death rates in control states and such death rates in license states, we find no statistically significant relationship among the two types of states and their different regimes of spirits sales. Government-monopoly control of spirits does not reduce citizens’ risks of dying from alcohol-related causes.
Boudreaux and Williams also used data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to investigate the specific problems of drunk-driving fatalities, binge drinking among 12- to 17-year-olds and binge drinking among 18- to 25-year-olds.[§] In all three cases, the average rates for control states and license states were similar, and in no case did regression analyses reveal a statistically significant relationship between alcohol control and these alcohol-related problems.