PRC Projects

Center Grant

Paul Gruenewald

This project addresses a major public health concern regarding alcohol outlets in urban settings: disproportionate exposures to health risks related to alcohol outlets. The research is designed to characterize the economic and social dynamics that lead outlets to become over-concentrated in certain areas of communities, then estimate the long-term impacts of greater densities of outlets on majority and minority groups over time. To do so the project will develop and apply a class of statistical and mathematical models that enable the estimation of direct and indirect spatial effects of changes in population demographics on the growth of outlets and community alcohol problems.

This project will help shed light on some of the social and economic dynamics that affect geographic distributions of alcohol outlets. It will also examine how the presence of these outlets exposes populations to risks associated with the availability of alcohol and how outlets increase rates of alcohol problems. The study will consider these effects in a broader geographic perspective and over longer time periods than have previously been used in research.
Previous research suggests that social and economic forces affect outlet distributions in communities over the course of years. Studies also indicate that problems related to alcohol outlets, such as drinking and driving, crime, and family violence, also develop over years. Therefore, this study will provide better information than previous work that focused on single years and small areas.

Current research indicates that outlets are over-concentrated in low income minority neighborhoods where residents typically consume less alcohol. This suggests that higher income people (who typically drink more) travel to retail areas nearby but not in their own neighborhood. As a result, residents of lower income neighborhoods, where these outlets are sited, may bear excess social costs related to having outlets in their neighborhoods.

This research will:

  1. Assess the growth of outlet densities, by type, in response to variables that indicate alcohol demand.
  2. Assess the growth of four problems related to alcohol outlets in response to alcohol demand indicators and outlet densities (motor vehicle crashes, assaults, intimate partner violence, and child abuse and neglect).
  3. Calculate the direct and indirect effects from these findings over time and in the context of a broader geographic scope.

This research will examine relationships between alcohol outlets, alcohol related motor vehicle crashes, assaults, intimate partner violence and child abuse and neglect across states and cities in the US. The project will measure the direct impacts of outlet densities on these problems, the indirect effects outlets have on these problems in nearby areas, and estimate total impacts related to alcohol effects. If outlet effects are underestimated using standard analysis procedures, the public health impacts of over-concentrations of outlets on problems could be much greater than expected.