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Alcohol consumption and human capital: a retrospective study of the literature


Lye, Jenny & Hirschberg, Joe (2010). Alcohol consumption and human capital: a retrospective study of the literature. Journal of Economic Surveys, 24(2), 309-338.


Grossman proposed an individual's health can be viewed as one aspect of their human capital. Following this line of thought a number of recent papers have reported a positive impact of alcohol consumption on earnings. The rationale for the existence of such a relationship is the positive impact of alcohol on physical and mental health. We conduct a meta-analysis to determine whether such factors as: the estimation technique, the presence of ex-drinkers in the sample, possible sample selection bias and publication bias may all contribute to these findings. An additional suggestion for the positive relationship between alcohol and wages is the presence of a common set of personality traits that determines drinking behaviour and also leads to higher earnings. We examine this relationship by reviewing the literature that investigates if the personality influencing aspects of alcohol consumption influences measures of human capital. We also survey the significant body of research that has examined how alcohol consumption has been found to influence educational outcomes and the work force participation of problem drinkers.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Journal of Economic Surveys


Lye, Jenny
Hirschberg, Joe