Did Alcohol Policy Really Cause the Postsocialist Mortality Crisis? Revisiting the Rebound and Affordability Hypotheses

Abstract

This paper reexamines the argument that alcohol policies were the major factor behind the mortality crisis in postsocialist Russia. We show that the correlation between the Gorbachev anti-alcohol campaign (rebound hypothesis), alcohol prices in the 1990s (affordability hypothesis), and mortality reported in previous analyses is not robust to splitting oblasts into Far- East and the rest of Russia. Our analysis conducted on a sample of 534 towns in the European part of Russia also finds no robust evidence supporting the two hypotheses. In contrast, findings linking privatization to mortality are robust to controlling for the anti-alcohol campaign and the affordability of alcohol.

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