Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

HERO On line Working Paper Series,
Oslo University, Health Economics Research Programme

No 2006:7: Genetic Variability and Collective Social Norms: The Case of Binge Drinking

Jason F. Shogren () and Eric Nævdal ()
Additional contact information
Jason F. Shogren: Department of Economics and Finance, Postal: University of Wyoming, University of, Wyoming, Laramie, WY, 82055
Eric Nævdal: Department of Economics and HERO, Postal: University of Oslo, P.O. Box 1095 Blindern, N-0317 Oslo, Norway

Abstract: This paper explores how collective social norms can have individual-level genetic foundation. Our study is the first we know to report a plausible link between genetically founded individual preferences in a fraction of a population and social norms governing behavior of all individuals. As our motivating example, we focus on patterns of Excessive Drinking in Social Situations (EDSS) across Europe that are possibly triggered by genetically caused variations in personality. The genetic trait is shyness, which correlates with eye color. We present empirical results indicating that alcohol consumption in social situations correlate with eye color and a model which suggests that conditions exist in which EDSS can emerge as a strategy in a larger fraction of the population than is genetically predisposed to EDSS. In addition, our model shows that alcohol taxes may be counter-productive in controlling the emergence of EDSS as a social norm.

Keywords: Excessive Drinking in Social Situations (EDSS); drinking behavior; genetically founded individual preferences; sosial norms

JEL-codes: I12; I18

41 pages, June 4, 2009

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