The Effect of Drink Price and Next-Day Responsibilities on College Student Drinking: A Behavioral Economic Analysis


More than [3/4] of U.S. college students report a heavy drinking episode (HDE; 5 (for men) and 4 (for women) drinks during an occasion) in the previous 90 days. This pattern of drinking is associated with various risks and social problems for both the heavy drinkers and the larger college community. According to behavioral economics, college student drinking is a contextually bound phenomenon that is impacted by contingencies such as price and competing alternative reinforcers, including next-day responsibilities such as college classes. This study systematically examines the role of these variables by using hypothetical alcohol purchase tasks to analyze alcohol consumption and expenditures among college students who reported recent heavy drinking (N = 207, 53.1% women). The impact of gender and the personality risk factor sensation seeking (SS) were also assessed. Students were asked how many drinks they would purchase and consume across 17 drink prices and 3 next-day responsibility scenarios. Mean levels of hypothetical consumption were highly sensitive to both drink price and next-day responsibility, with the lowest drinking levels associated with high drink prices and a next-day test. Men and participants with greater levels of SS reported more demand overall (greater consumption and expenditures) than women and students with low SS personality. Contrary to our hypotheses women appeared to be less sensitive to increases in price than men. The results suggest that increasing drink prices and morning academic requirements may be useful in preventing heavy drinking among college students. © 2010 American Psychological Association.

Publication Title

Psychology of Addictive Behaviors