Academic journal article Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Working Paper Series

The Impact on Employment and Hours of Allowing Sunday Alcohol Sales in Georgia

Academic journal article Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, Working Paper Series

The Impact on Employment and Hours of Allowing Sunday Alcohol Sales in Georgia

Article excerpt

The Impact on Employment and Hours of Allowing Sunday Alcohol Sales in Georgia

I. Introduction and Background

Different counties and municipalities in Georgia started allowing sales of alcohol on Sundays as early as November 13, 2011. Laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Sundays are commonly referred as "blue laws" and have existed in the United States since colonial times. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, several states, including Georgia, opted to retain Sunday sales restrictions. During the 2011 legislative session, Georgia legislators voted to allow counties and cities to determine whether grocery, convenience, and liquor stores could sell alcohol on Sundays. As of the 4th quarter of 2013, 53 unincorporated counties (33.3%) and 174 cities (33.9%) had held referendums in order to allow alcohol sales on Sunday. At the time the bill was passed, Georgia was only one of three remaining states in the U.S. with blue laws on the books (Indiana and Connecticut were the other two).

In the debate surrounding the pros and cons for blue laws, discussion of traffic accidents and the potential boon to state coffers seemed to be just as important as any moral or biblical concerns (for example, see Jenkins 2011, Bonner 2011, Guntzel 2011, and AP Reports 2011), although one study found a 15 percent decline in church attendance in states where blue laws have been repealed (Gruber 2008). In addition, a 2012 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (see Weir 2012) reviewed the literature relating traffic accidents, domestic disturbances, and outdoor assaults to restrictions of Sunday alcohol sales: traffic fatalities increased when restriction were removed and domestic disturbances and outdoor assaults declined when restrictions were enacted.

This paper deviates from these concerns about traffic fatalities, state revenues, and salvation to focus on the labor market impact of the repeal of the Sunday alcohol sales restrictions in the state of Georgia. We make use of administrative data that the Georgia Department of Labor uses to administer the state's Unemployment Insurance Program. These data are historically referred to as ES202 data and are the data used to produce the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). The advantage of using the actual administrative data is that this analysis is not constrained by data suppression rules imposed on the public version of the QCEW. We are able to take advantage of the differential timing of implementation across counties and municipalities to perform a triple-difference type of analysis of changes in employment and weekly earnings in NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) code 4453 (beer, wine, & liquor stores), relative to employment and weekly earnings changes in other industries, in counties that passed a sales referendum compared to those changes in counties that did not pass a referendum. Since there is no reason to expect this law change would affect hourly wages of liquor store sales clerks and stockers, the weekly earnings analysis can tell us something about changes in relative hours of those workers.

It is possible that extending the window of opportunity to purchase alcohol will increase alcohol sales, thus increase demand for workers and/or workers' hours to tend stores to meet this greater demand. It is also possible that adding hours on Sunday will merely shift alcohol purchases from another day of the week to Sunday, not raising total sales, or labor demand in this industry at all. There is some evidence for the later possibility from Carpenter and Eisenberg (2009) find that while the expansion of alcohol sales to Sunday (in Canada) significantly increased the amount of drinking on Sunday, it did not increase overall total alcohol consumption. We do not have consumption data to be able to distinguish increases or shifts in consumption across days. However, unless liquor store owners merely shift their day of closure in response to the removal of sales restrictions on Sundays, an extra day of business will require additional staff. …

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