Treisman, Daniel (2010). Death and prices. Economics of Transition, 18(2)
Most experts agree that alcohol abuse has been a major cause of Russia’s soaring mortality rate. But why have ever more Russians been drinking themselves to death? Some attribute this to despair in the face of painful economic change. I present evidence that, in fact, the surge in alcohol-related deaths – and premature deaths in general – was fuelled by a dramatic fall in the real price of vodka, which dropped 77 percent between December 1990 and December 1994. Variation in vodka prices – both over time and across Russia’s regions – closely matches variation in mortality. Although market competition and weak excise collection help explain the fall in prices, the main reason appears to be populist price regulation during inflationary periods.
Economics of Transition