PRC Projects

Center Grant

Mexican American Drinking Contexts on and away from the US/Mexico Border
Component Directors: Raul Caetano M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D. and Patrice Vaeth, Dr.P.H.


The U.S./Mexico border is a distinctive area socially, culturally, and with respect to drinking.  Alcohol is more easily available because the minimum legal drinking age in Mexico is 18 compared to the U.S. age of 21.  There are also more bars, clubs, and restaurants in the areas that serve alcohol.  Previous research has shown that the border population is more at risk for unsafe drinking, such as binge drinking, and drinking-related problems, such as drinking and driving, than the population farther away from the border.  Therefore, the high proportion of people of Mexican origin residing near the U.S.-Mexico border is particularly likely to be exposed to this higher risk environment.

This research project examines how this border environment relates to heavier and problem drinking.  We will analyze archival data collected prior to the beginning of the research study (such as hospital admissions), observations of the places where people drink, and surveys of adults 18-39 years of age living in the California/Mexico border areas of Imperial City, El Centro, Heber, and Calexico.  This sample will be compared to a group of age-matched Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic Whites who live away from the border, in the cities of Delano, Madera, Tulare, and Visalia, in the Central Valley of California.

Research Goals and Activities

We plan to test several hypotheses, including:

  1. Mexican Americans in the border cities will show a higher rate of alcohol-related hospital discharges, motor vehicle crashes and emergency room admissions, violent crime rates, violent assault rates, and drinking and driving arrests than Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic Whites in the Central Valley cities away from the border.
  2. The cities along the border will have a higher density of alcohol outlets than cities in the Central Valley.
  3. Younger Mexican Americans in the border cities will be more likely to drink in public venues such as bars and clubs than at home and with family than young Mexican American and non-Hispanic Whites in Valley cities.  Also drinking in bars and clubs will lead to heavier drinking and more frequent binge drinking.
  4. Rates of alcohol-related social problems (for example, with family, job, legal issues, sexual aggression), as well as measures of diagnoses of alcohol use disorders, will be higher among Mexican Americans in the border cities than among age matched Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic Whites in Valley cities.
  5. Observations and interviews will be conducted in selected bars in the border cities, in the Valley cities and in Mexicali, BC, Mexico.  We expect that commercial drinking venues in Mexicali (across the border from the selected study cities on the U.S. side), will have riskier operating conditions as well as lower priced alcohol and later closing times compared to venues in the U.S. border towns and Central Valley towns.