Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Crime in the United States, 1980-1987 (ICPSR 9685)

Principal Investigator(s): Joksch, Hans C.; Jones, Ralph K.


This collection focuses on how changes in the legal drinking age affect the number of fatal motor vehicle accidents and crime rates. The principal investigators identified three areas of study. First, they looked at blood alcohol content of drivers involved in fatal accidents in relation to changes in the drinking age. Second, they looked at how arrest rates correlated with changes in the drinking age. Finally, they looked at the relationship between blood alcohol content and arrest rates. In this context, the investigators used the percentage of drivers killed in fatal automobile accidents who had positive blood alcohol content as an indicator of drinking in the population. Arrests were used as a measure of crime, and arrest rates per capita were used to create comparability across states and over time. Arrests for certain crimes as a proportion of all arrests were used for other analyses to compensate for trends that affect the probability of arrests in general. This collection contains three parts. Variables in the Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime Data file (Part 1) include the state and year to which the data apply, the type of crime, and the sex and age category of those arrested for crimes. A single arrest is the unit of analysis for this file. Information in the Population Data file (Part 2) includes population counts for the number of individuals within each of seven age categories, as well as the number in the total population. There is also a figure for the number of individuals covered by the reporting police agencies from which data were gathered. The individual is the unit of analysis. The Fatal Accident Data file (Part 3) includes six variables: the FIPS code for the state, year of accident, and the sex, age group, and blood alcohol content of the individual killed. The final variable in each record is a count of the number of drivers killed in fatal motor vehicle accidents for that state and year who fit into the given sex, age, and blood alcohol content grouping. A driver killed in a fatal accident is the unit of analysis.

Access Notes

  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.


DS0:  Study-Level Files
DS1:  FBI Crime Data - Download All Files (6.903 MB)
SAS    SPSS    Stata    ASCII   
ASCII + SAS Setup    SPSS Setup    Stata Setup   
DS2:  Population Data - Download All Files (1.026 MB)
SAS    SPSS    Stata    ASCII   
ASCII + SAS Setup    SPSS Setup    Stata Setup   
DS3:  Fatal Accident Data - Download All Files (4.828 MB)
SAS    SPSS    Stata    ASCII   
ASCII + SAS Setup    SPSS Setup    Stata Setup   

Study Description


Joksch, Hans C., and Ralph K. Jones. Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Crime in the United States, 1980-1987. ICPSR09685-v2. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2001.

Persistent URL:

Export Citation:

  • RIS (generic format for RefWorks, EndNote, etc.)
  • EndNote XML (EndNote X4.0.1 or higher)


This study was funded by:

  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (88-IJ-CX-0051)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    alcohol consumption, arrest rates, crime, drinking age, driving under the influence, fatalities, traffic accidents

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 1980--1987

Date of Collection:   

  • 1990

Universe:    Fifty states and the District of Columbia.

Data Type(s):    aggregate data, and survey data

Data Collection Notes:

The codebook is provided as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. The PDF file format was developed by Adobe Systems Incorporated and can be accessed using PDF reader software, such as the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Information on how to obtain a copy of the Acrobat Reader is provided on the ICPSR Web site.


Sample:    States that raised the drinking age between 1981 and 1986 were eligible for inclusion in the study test group. Additionally, the year of change and the years in which more than 20 percent of the drivers in the relevant age categories were affected by a "grandfather" clause were excluded. Also, only states and years in which at least 60 percent of the killed drivers were tested for blood alcohol content were included. States that had not changed their drinking age between 1980 and 1987 were eligible for inclusion in the control group.

Data Source:

FBI records, Census Bureau population data, and data from the University of Michigan AADAS System (Transportation Research Institute of Michigan)

Extent of Processing:   ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


Original ICPSR Release:   1992-03-04

Version History:

  • 2006-03-30 File CB9685.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.
  • 2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.
  • 2001-11-16 The data files were reformatted to logical record length format, and a corresponding codebook and SAS and SPSS data definition statements were created. Existing hardcopy documentation was converted to PDF.

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