How Persistent Are Consumption Habits? Micro-Evidence from Russia's Alcohol Market

Lorenz Kueng, Evgeny Yakovlev

NBER Working Paper No. 20298
Issued in July 2014
NBER Program(s):   AG   AP   EFG   HE   PE

We use the Anti-Alcohol Campaign in 1986 and the rapid expansion of the beer market after the collapse of the Soviet Union as two quasi-natural experiments to identify highly persistent habit formation in alcohol consumption among Russian males. Importantly, these results apply to all levels of alcohol consumption and are not driven by heavy drinking or alcoholism. The two large shocks combined with persistent habits lead to large cohort differences in consumer behavior even decades later. We derive a basic model of habit formation with homogeneous preferences over two habit-forming goods, which is consistent with these facts. Using placebo tests as well as simple descriptive statistics, we show that habits are formed during early adulthood and remain largely unaffected afterward. The main alternative hypotheses such as income effects, unobserved taste heterogeneity, stepping-stone effects, and changes in culture or social norms are inconsistent with those patterns. Using the experiments as IVs, we estimate the first-order autoregressive coefficient to be 0.83, which is almost three times larger than its OLS estimate. Finally, our results suggest that male mortality in Russia will decrease by one quarter within twenty years even under current policies and prices due to the long-run consequences of the large changes in the alcohol market.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20298

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