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The Gorbachev Anti-Alcohol Campaign and Russia's Mortality Crisis

Jay Bhattacharya, Christina Gathmann, Grant Miller

NBER Working Paper No. 18589
Issued in December 2012
NBER Program(s):Program on the Economics of Aging, Development Economics Program, Health Care Program, Health Economics Program

Political and economic transition is often blamed for Russia's 40% surge in deaths between 1990 and 1994. Highlighting that increases in mortality occurred primarily among alcohol-related causes and among working-age men (the heaviest drinkers), this paper investigates an alternative explanation: the demise of the 1985-1988 Gorbachev Anti-Alcohol Campaign. Using archival sources to build a new oblast-year data set spanning 1978-2000, we find a variety of evidence suggesting that the campaign's end explains a large share of the mortality crisis - implying that Russia's transition to capitalism and democracy was not as lethal as commonly suggested.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18589

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