Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair/Advisor

William Dougan

Committee Member

Jorge Garcia

Committee Member

Robert Fleck

Committee Member

Devon Gorry


Federalism allows multiple levels of government, such as counties, states, and nations, to control the same territory. The result is often differentiated policies across smaller jurisdictions, which inevitably create spillovers when goods can be purchased in one locality and not in another. The first chapter discusses how each of the subsequent chapters are related using this context.

The second chapter investigates how one jurisdiction's policy may diffuse across neighboring jurisdictions to mitigate spillover effects using evidence from Texas. Texas is one of 34 states that allow local jurisdictions to determine alcohol policies and regulations via local option referenda. A force behind the increasing liberalization of alcohol laws in Texas could be policy diffusion, a phenomenon in which policy changes in one jurisdiction spread to or constrain policies in other regions. The results indicate that the probability that a county allows for the sale of liquor or mixed beverages increases by about 45 percentage points when all of its neighbors become wetter. Additionally, I find that having a high percentage of Baptists is strongly correlated with resistance to the relaxation of restrictions on alcohol consumption, and other demographics also factor into this decision.

Chapter 3 lends further support to the conclusions of Chapter 2, again focusing on Texas alcohol policy. Local option leads to neighboring jurisdictions, possibly counties, having different levels of alcohol availability, which may result in increased drunk driving as consumers in a drier county travel to a nearby location to procure alcohol. Policy harmonization---or the event of a county changing its alcohol policy to match that of its neighbor---can potentially reduce the amount of cross-border drunk driving. I do not find statistically significant evidence that policy harmonization reduces drunk driving in a pair of neighboring counties, although it may reduce drunk driving in the county that was initially wet. The evidence suggests that most of the enforcement effort regarding patrolling for drunk drivers is concentrated at the local level via local police and sheriff's departments, as opposed to at the state level via the Highway Patrol, who monitor the roads that consumers would likely take to travel between counties. The results regarding policy differentiation are ambiguous, which is most likely due to my small sample size. Most enforcement against drunk driving may take place close to the point of consumption, on the local roads possibly near highly frequented bars or restaurants.

Policies that directly regulate alcohol availability are not the only laws that may affect the prevalence of drunk driving. The fourth chapter examines how recreational marijuana laws (RMLs) affect fatalities that result from alcohol impairment and other types of impaired driving. While I find that enacting a RML does not significantly affect traffic fatalities related to any type of drugged driving, I find evidence that the introduction of a RML increases the rate of traffic fatalities that resulted from an accident in which at least one driver was under the influence of alcohol by about 31-55 fatalities per year. My research extends the literature on MMLs and their effect on traffic fatalities.



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