Price Elasticity of Demand for Malt Liquor Beer

Findings from a US Pilot Study

Published in: Social Science and Medicine, v. 62, no. 9, May 2006, p. 2101-2111

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2006

by Michael Thomas French, Didra Brown-Taylor, Ricky N. Bluthenthal

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Our objective is to estimate the relative price elasticity of demand for malt liquor beer (MLB), regular beer, hard liquor, and a combined group of all other alcoholic beverages. Three hundred and twenty-nine alcohol consumers (mostly male) in South-Central Los Angeles answered a series of questions pertaining to expected consumption responses to hypothetical price increases. We found that based on a 10% price increase, the mean price elasticity of demand (% change in quantity demanded / % change in price) was -0.79 for MLB drinkers, -1.14 for regular beer drinkers, -1.11 for hard liquor drinkers, and -1.69 for the combined group of all other drinkers. Logistic regression analysis revealed that the personal characteristics significantly related to being a MLB drinker were older age, not working, being homeless, and a daily drinker. Daily (or nearly daily) drinkers were more likely to be married, earning lower incomes, and hard liquor drinkers. This study is the first to investigate the price elasticity of demand for MLB drinkers and other heavy alcohol consumers in poor urban neighborhoods of the US. Future research can use the methods from this pilot study to more rigorously examine and compare the price sensitivity among heavy drinking groups.

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