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Alcohol and Homicide in the United States: Is the Link Dependent on Wetness?

NCJ Number
Drug and Alcohol Review Volume: 30 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2011 Pages: 458-465
Thor Norstrom
Date Published
September 2011
8 pages

This study analyzed the alcohol-homicide link in various regions of the United States.


The findings provide mixed support for the hypothesis that the relationship between alcohol and homicide is stronger in "wet" (hazardous drinking pattern) States than in "dry" (absence of a hazardous drinking pattern) States. There was a statistically significant relationship between changes in per capital alcohol consumption and homicide during the post-war period (1950-2002) in the United States. The findings further suggest that the strength of this relationship is contingent upon drinking patterns, such that it is stronger in those States characterized by a higher prevalence of hazardous drinking; however, the latter conclusion must be tempered by the finding that the pattern of estimated alcohol effects across groups of States with different degrees of hazardous drinking patterns is sensitive to modeling technique and model specification. Future research should examine more specific indicators of homicide as well as alcohol consumption. In the study methodology, alcohol sales figures were used as proxy for alcohol consumption. Mortality data were used as indicators of homicide. The States were placed into three groups labeled "dry," "moderate," and "wet" based on survey data regarding the prevalence of heavy episodic drinking, as indicated by the percentage of respondents who had consumed five drinks or more in a day at least once during the past month; the prevalence of abstention; and sales of alcohol per capita in 2005. Group-specific data were analyzed using autoregressive integrated moving average ARIMA) modeling and fixed effects modeling. All modeling was based on differenced data, thus eliminating time trends and interstate correlations, both of which may bias estimates. 1 figure, 4 tables, and 36 references

Date Published: September 1, 2011