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Do ridesharing services increase alcohol consumption?

Conor Lennon, PhD Teltser, K. Burgdorf, J.
Journal of Health Economics. March 8, 2021

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Abstract

Recent studies suggest ridesharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, may reduce instances of intoxicated driving. However, such services may reduce the costs, and thus increase the frequency and intensity, of drinking activity. To examine whether ridesharing affects alcohol consumption, we leverage spatial and temporal variation in the presence of Uber’s taxi-like service, UberX, across the United States. Using self-reported measures of alcohol consumption in the past 30 days among individuals aged 21 to 64, we find that UberX is associated with a 3.6% increase in number of drinks per drinking day, a 2.7% increase in drinking days, a 5.4% increase in total drinks, a 4.3% increase in the maximum number of drinks in a single occasion, and a 1.3% increase in those who report drinking any alcohol. For certain groups, such as males, individuals aged 21–34, and students, UberX is associated with even larger increases in drinking. For example, among those aged 21–34, total drinks increase by 7.4% and binge drinking instances increase by 9.5%. We also find that the marginal impact of Uber on drinking is larger in areas that have weaker public transit. Using administrative employment data, we find that some of the additional alcohol consumption is occurring at bars. Specifically, we estimate that UberX is associated with a 3.5% increase in employment and a 3.7% increase in total earnings among workers at NAICS-designated “drinking places.”

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