August 12th, 2011
04:22 PM ET

More educated people spend more on booze

Matt Yglesias highlights the following U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics trivia fact that educational attainment is strongly correlated with alcohol expenditures:

Yglesias asks whether that means people with many years of schooling are drinking more or just drinking fancier stuff.

James Joyner speculated:

Increasing levels of education correlates with increased income and, presumably, more disposable income. As people attain more education and income, they’re likely to switch from cheap beer (Miller Lite) and cheap booze (Seagrams gin, Jim Beam bourbon) to better and more expensive beer (say, Dogfish Head 120) and booze (Bombay Sapphire gin, Macallan 12 Scotch). Also, they’ll drink wine that comes in bottles not boxes. Additionally, they’ll be more likely to drink at bars and pricey restaurants, thinking nothing of paying $6 for a pint of beer, $9 for a glass of wine, or $12 for a cocktail. Alternatively – and not exclusive of the above–they’re more likely to have high stress jobs and drink on a daily basis.

Then Kevin Drum dug up some data from the Bureau of Labor statistics, which showed that weekly alcohol expenditures increase strongly with income. Here's how it breaks down:

  • Expenditures on beer double between the lowest and highest income quintiles.
  • Expenditures on wine quintuple.
  • Expenditures on "other" (mostly mixed drinks, I assume) also quintuple.
  • Expenditures on alcohol consumed at home go up 170% while expenditures on alcohol consumed elsewhere go up 600%.

Kevin's conclusion: "...wealthier people might drink more alcohol than poor people, but probably not by much. Mostly they just buy more expensive stuff at home as well as more pricey drinks in bars and restaurants."

Does that sound right to you?

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Topics: Culture

soundoff (121 Responses)
  1. Jason

    Country pubs are dieing out because the people with less money arnt going out, only the cities are surviving and they have more money on average...it doesnt take a scientist to tell this tale..a 4th grader could do it...hell sesame street probably has something about this from decades ago

    August 13, 2011 at 12:08 am | Reply
  2. Justin Hater

    My roommate is on disability and a pension..... she drinks like a friken sailor on leave.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:21 am | Reply
  3. Robert

    Tactical Nuclear Penguin and other craft beers from Brew Dog! Currently listening to "Pass the Courvoisier."

    August 13, 2011 at 12:56 am | Reply
  4. demogal

    That is exactly the situation in my family. As we grew more comfortable financially, our taste for finer wines and more expensive bourbon, scotch, etc., grew.

    August 13, 2011 at 12:59 am | Reply
  5. Robert

    MBA or graduate school with studies in the Master Brewer's program are options at some universities across the country.

    August 13, 2011 at 1:03 am | Reply
  6. Alex Winter

    No surprise. Here's the deal, as explained by Lisa Simpson about 18 years ago:
    Smarter and more educated people know more. The more you know, the sadder you are. It's an inverse correlation.
    And for some of us the sadder you are, the more you drink. Especially these days.

    August 13, 2011 at 1:54 am | Reply
  7. Riam

    B.S. Well.... DUH! Of course people who have higher degrees spend more money on alcohol; the people who have higher degrees, on average, also make more money. Thus the TELLING thing to show would be a bar graph not how much money is spent a year on booze, but what percentage of the income is spent on alcohol.

    Which, I'm going to hypothesize that the lowest educated (and smallest earners) spend the highest proportion of their paycheck on booze, and as the higher the education level rises, the fraction of paycheck that goes to alcohol decreases.

    Furthermore, not all alcohol is the same price in terms of Alcohol % / $$$. Wine, champagne, and fine liquor are more popular with wealthy, highly educated people than cheap 40 oz. of malt liquor which are quite popular with lower educated and lower income people. And for similar alcohol contents you'd have to pay 3 to 300 times as much for the same volume of alcohol, that the rich people are drinking. Thus poor people probably are paying little for a large amount of alcohol, while the rich are paying a lot for a very fine, smaller amount of alcohol.

    Thus, this analysis is probably wrong because they DO NOT take into account several key variables. A more comprehensive study needs to be done taking into account money spent on alcohol as a fraction of income, and the quality/price of alcohol that is being bought, before any conclusions are drawn.

    August 13, 2011 at 1:55 am | Reply
    • Anonom1

      Hear hear!

      August 13, 2011 at 2:02 am | Reply
  8. jesse

    You know what, they kinda miss the point in the statistics. Let me lay this out in relation to my personal life and work. I work a highly ungratifying and thankless job as a night auditor at a hotel. It's not a good job, but I'll still take it in a heart beat. My boss on the other hand makes a much higher pas scale and is on salarie. You can regularly see me working anywhere between 40-70 hours a week as compared to her 30-45 hours a week. Even given the drastic difference in hours, she still takes home far more than I do and spends a LOT on booze. I only buy about 16 bottles of wine a year at prices around $10. Long story short, lower working class people spend less on alcohol because they have to work harder to get by and those who make more spend more because they have the money to do it.

    August 13, 2011 at 2:25 am | Reply
  9. Phil in Oregon

    Introducing the new line of scholarships financed by distilleries and brewers! And we all thought college students were doing all the guzzling. They were just practicing for their future of rigorous professional drinking.

    August 13, 2011 at 11:20 am | Reply
  10. Isabelle Idler

    I don't know if it's to relieve the stress but it's certainly a stupid way to be spending money! Educated people should know better! http://www.insuranceadjustertraining.net

    August 14, 2011 at 1:03 am | Reply
  11. Daddy

    This is a very hard statistic to discern based off of our 'isolated' studies. I personally believe that a person who 'wants' to drink, regardless of their income, will FIND a way to drink, as such, investing their money into the alcoholic product itself. I think this article is a complete phony.

    August 14, 2011 at 1:18 am | Reply
  12. Elizabeth

    Let's all remember that correlation does not imply causation. It seems as though there is a lurking variable in this study–household income. It's well-known that those with more education tend to garner higher wages. It also makes sense that those who make more money per annum have more disposable income and are able to spend more on alcohol than their lesser-earning counterparts.

    September 6, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Reply
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