The impact of prices on alcoholic beverage consumption in Chile

Introduction and objective
Chile is among the countries with the highest alcohol consumption per capita in Latin America, but little has been done in the way of public policy and policy research to overcome this problem. The objective of the present study is to estimate demand elasticities (own-price, cross-price, expenditure and quality) for three groups of alcoholic beverages in Chile: spirits, wines, and beers.

Data and methods
The study uses data from the VII Encuesta de Presupuestos Familiares (Family Budget Survey) 2011–2012 conducted by the National Institute of Statistics. Because of problems with the quality of the measurement units, hot-deck imputation method was used with the alcohol purchases that presented problems. To estimate the demand elasticities, the Almost Ideal Demand System (AIDS) method proposed by Deaton was used. Quality decisions were estimated for each beverage separately using an equation proposed by Deaton in the three step AIDS.

Results
The estimated elasticities were more inelastic for spirits (-0.14, P<0.01), followed by wines (-0.77, P<0.01) and beers (-0.93, P<0.01). Spirits reported less sensitivity to changes in the total budget, while wines reported the most sensitivity to changes in the total budget (expenditure elasticity). Wines also reported the most sensitivity related to quality for changes in the total budget (0,20, meaning that a 10% increase in a household’s total expenditure increases the “quality” of purchased wines by 2%).

Conclusions
Own-price elasticities reported for spirits, wines and beers are consistently negative, and inelastic, in line with international evidence. Although own-price elasticities for spirits is more inelastic than found in most studies, its quality-elasticity is more positive and greater. This could be explained by the greater price dispersion of spirits, as well as spirits (and wine) being consumed more than beers in Chile. This in turn may be because consumers have the option of switching to cheaper, Chilean-produced spirits such as pisco and wines when prices rise. The existence of these relatively broad quality-elasticities points to the need for a change in the alcohol tax structure from the current ad-valorem tax to a specific tax that could reduce price dispersion and curb total consumption.