Sobering Up: The Impact of the 1985-1988 Russian Anti-Alcohol Campaign on Child Health
Presenter: Andreea Balan-Cohen, Tufts University
This paper estimates the impact of parental alcohol consumption on long run child health—physical, as well as mental health—by taking advantage of a unique shock to alcohol supply: the 1985 to 1988 alcohol prohibition campaign in Russia. This campaign was temporally short lived, and resulted in large amounts of exogenous variation in its intensity and effectiveness across both cohorts and regions. To address the potential endogeneity of the intensity of prohibition, I also use an instrumental variable approach that takes advantage of the exogenous variation in the availability of sugar—which was an essential input into the production of home-made alcohol (moonshine).
I construct a new data set that combines the Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS) with detailed regional data on both official alcohol consumption, as well as home-made moonshine consumption. Direct information on child health outcomes between 1985-1988 is not available, so I focus instead on longer run measures of health for which early childhood inputs are essential: height, immunization rates (which have specific age-schedules for being administered), chronic conditions, and measures of domestic child abuse. I find significant improvements in all of these health outcomes among children born during prohibition who also lived in regions with effective anti-alcohol campaigns, and no effect on children born either before or after prohibition. This confirms the effect of investments during a child’s first three years of life on long-term health measures, and demonstrates a potential positive effect of suppressing parental access to alcohol.
Furthermore, by using (institutional) evidence from vaccination rates I am able to disentangle the channels through which the effects occurred; in particular, I show that, in Russia between 1985-1988, parental time inputs might have been more important contributors to child health than parental monetary investments.
The contributions of this paper to the literature on the effect of parental alcohol consumption on child health are several. First, I focus on both physical and mental measures of child health, which reduces the problem of certain confounding factors—such as genes and personality—being correlated with parental alcohol consumption, since these factors are much more likely to influence child mental outcomes only (rather than physical health). Second, by focusing on national rather than state alcohol policy and on a time period when internal migration in Russia was restricted, the endogeneity of families’ location in response to changes in alcohol prices and programs is not an issue in the estimation. Third, I show not only that restrictive alcohol policies can have a large positive effect on child physical health, but also that this effect occurs even in heavy drinking environments. Fourth, I present some evidence on the channels through which parental alcohol consumption affects child health. This paper also contributes to the literature on the effects of the 1985 to 1988 anti-alcohol campaign in Russia, and on the medium-term effect of prohibitions more generally.
Authors: Andreea Balan-Cohen
Time: Tue 2 p.m.-3 p.m.