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?

Post by:
Topics: Culture

soundoff (134 Responses)
  1. pmk1953

    Maybe we're just better informed and realize just how screwed we are and just want to numb our minds more.

    August 12, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • letmeout

      you are right on the money...

      August 12, 2011 at 6:47 pm |
    • ann

      well said!

      August 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • hez123

      I'll drink to that.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • BRBSanDiego

      Looks like a "yup" fest, so yup from me too.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:02 pm |
    • Zon

      I buy 3 times that amount per year. I have no degree but I make over six figures. Go figure.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
      • jackD

        So, you make 7 figures then?

        August 12, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
      • bob

        3x more than what? Hogwash Mr 7 digit.

        August 12, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
      • Kevin

        Haha! The 7 figures comment was brilliant.

        The OP was spot on btw.

        August 12, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
      • Zicke


        August 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
      • d

        My wife has no job, a high school education, no liver problems (yet, checks it every 6 months), and a dumba$$ husband-she consumes $2600 worth of Jim Beam a year, on my upper 5-figure salary

        August 13, 2011 at 2:06 am |
    • Mozaik


      August 12, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • OJS

      I totally agree with you, there. I'm sure not in all cases, but damn right in many.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • JE

      Proof that education still has its value. Cheers!

      August 12, 2011 at 8:23 pm |
      • Roger

        Trying to recapture all of that time we spent getting an education and realizing what mostly a waste it was when we could have been drinking all along.

        August 12, 2011 at 11:11 pm |
    • Pep

      Exactly what I was thinking as I read the article (while enjoying an expensive beer).

      August 12, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • Thomas L

      Well yeah, of course a millionaire rather spend 5000$ on a bottle of wine than 5$ at the local liquor shop.

      August 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm |
      • Trance

        You hit the nail on the head.

        August 14, 2011 at 9:50 pm |
    • Coach

      And people with more money obviously have better taste buds. Seriously, who drinks wine from a box?

      August 12, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • wayne

      bingo daddio

      August 12, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • M

      Nice try poser.....

      August 12, 2011 at 10:13 pm |

      I'll drink to that!

      August 12, 2011 at 10:25 pm |
    • N

      this deserves a toast

      August 12, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • EastCoast

      God Bless Sam C. and his Dogfish. We Love You!!!!!!!!

      August 12, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
    • Ashe

      Ill second that!!!! With a glass of wild turkey 🙂

      August 12, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
    • ally

      is this what i pay taxes for? for the U.S.dept. of Statistics to claim months of years of work?
      Excuse me, but this is the most useless study there is!
      Who cares about this to pay our taxes on this junk? And if you think it was private sector study – would you pay your own money (lots of it) to fund something like this? And whoever wrote it is a "scientist" – ha ha.

      August 13, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • veronight

      I beg to differ. I am highly educated and I barely ever drink. In fact, The crazy rednecks in my family are the ones who drink up every dime they can. My cousin makes 100k a year and over half of that is spend in booze a year. He never finished high school. Drives truck and every other word is the F word.

      August 13, 2011 at 2:20 am |
  2. j. von hettlingen

    Expenditure figures don't necessarily define drinking habits. If people of high-end incomes spend more on alcohol, it can be explained that they buy quality produces, socialise a lot, like dinning out or having guests at home. One the other hand one can never dismiss the possibility of addiction due to alcohol excesses.

    August 12, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Dan

      No kidding?I thought I read that in the article too!

      August 12, 2011 at 7:22 pm |
  3. Michelle G

    What a pointless study. I imagine the graph would look the same for most any consumer commodity. I'm sure as income goes up, people spend more on food, entertainment, clothes etc.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Chuck

      An excellent point and entirely correct.

      I still wonder, though, how much of this is caused by taxes on alcohol. Taxes raise the prices across the board for everyone. Do high alcohol taxes make alcohol less accessible to the poor? Whether or not that is a good thing is another question. But, if it is true, is it - be it good or bad - fair to the poor?

      August 12, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
      • pltu

        Dumb question. Life isn't fair. If the poor want to drink better stuff, go get an education instead of crying about life being unfair.

        August 12, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
      • how bout now?

        a poor person complaining that they cant afford alcohol because of alcohol taxes should be the least of their worries

        August 12, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
      • Rich

        You turned this into a RW talking point on taxes? Nicely done sir, albeit a bit of a mind-numbing stretch... I'll have whatever Chuck is drinking.

        August 12, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
      • ButterSquash

        @ pltu That would mean that the old "Higher Education" poster with the luxury cars will have to be replaced with bottles of Tanqueray 10 gin and Glenfiddich scotch...

        August 12, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
  4. HappyFace

    Bogus statistics...lying with statistics

    August 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
  5. milea

    It eases the pain of student loans.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  6. Botr

    More educated=more money=can afford more booze.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • NeoSHNIK

      * better quality booze.

      August 12, 2011 at 6:57 pm |
  7. Bob

    I call BS, there is no way that anyone has more time after undergrad to drink like a champ. Maybe they have more money to buy that 30 year old bottle of scotch, but way.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
  8. Pablo

    I agree, very bogus statistics. Try buying a 30 rack of beer every week. It adds up. Then you start throwing in rum and vodka. Way more than what they show. Kevin Drum, you sir are retarded.

    August 12, 2011 at 6:41 pm |
  9. B-Hart

    So . . . if the high school drop-out buys a case of beer for $24 and drinks the whole thing, he's drinking more booze than me if I buy a $50 bottle of wine and consume the entire thing? Does quality count for nothing in this study?

    August 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • david

      did you not even read the story? you just read the headline, didn't you??- the story factors in that possibility, as a matter of fact the story challenges us to ponder that fact. are you even thinking?

      August 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm |
  10. Oh Dear...

    Wait, those figures are per YEAR?! Looks like I have a problem...

    August 12, 2011 at 6:50 pm |
    • BRBSanDiego

      Oh dear too – I really can't believe those are annual numbers.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:04 pm |
    • DH

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing!! I range from about $250 to $700 month to month depending on what's going on.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
      • Majesty

        $700 per month?!? I think you and I should be friends. haha

        August 12, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • JC

      The study must include non-drinkers, also. $700 / year is a very low figure for someone who enjoys nice beer, wine, or spirits on a regular basis.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  11. GDBnNH

    Wow! I must be one of the smartest people in the world if this article is true!

    August 12, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  12. Seth

    The more education people have, the higher their income. The higher their income, the more they spend. They're not buying more booze, they're buying better booze. The same correlation could be made on any product type.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:00 pm |
    • George

      not ANY product type, but many...yes. Think Ramen noodles, Easy Mac, or pb&j's.. or even off-brand foods vs name brand foods. As income goes up, one generally acquires a more expensive taste on goods and therefore the consumption of inferior goods (such as those listed previously) decreases as income rises. Which is also noted in this article, miller lite -> dogfish head, or Seagrams -> Bombay Sapphire.

      August 12, 2011 at 10:20 pm |
  13. booze

    800 bucks is like one month of boozing for me. annual? haha. learn how to drink kids.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • gaba

      yo! cool bro! you are such a champ bro! 800 dollars bro! you rock bro! good job!

      August 12, 2011 at 8:30 pm |
  14. QS

    "He who increases knowledge, increases sorrow"....perhaps those with more knowledge of their world in general have an increased need for alcohol due to an increased level of sorrow they feel for knowing too much of how our world currently is.

    Or it could just be that they buy more expensive booze! 😉

    August 12, 2011 at 7:08 pm |
  15. MightyMoo

    I have a bachelor's degree and there is no way I spend around $600/year on alcohol.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • Rich

      You trying to throw the curve, MightyMoo? Stop drinking like a retard. 😉

      August 12, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Majesty

      You don't spend $600/year on booze?? You must be the most boring person ever. What do you do on the weekend?

      August 12, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
    • newTARheel

      i have a master's and i make up for the deficiency in your's an average after all...

      August 12, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
  16. Me

    It's Friday night....let's par-tay!!!!

    August 12, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  17. AC

    the good stuff isn't cheap!

    August 12, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  18. Jonathan

    What a bunch of lightweights. Transfer to the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and we'll show you how it's done.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  19. Jamie

    People who make more spend more?!? Stop the press!!!

    August 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm |
  20. Greg

    Well, I know the only thing I learned in college that I still use today was how to drink, so this makes perfect sense.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:34 pm |
  21. Jackie Treehorn

    Correlation does not prove causation, and yet this article assumes that it's the higher education that leads to the increased expenditure on alcohol. Who is to say it's not the other way around? I say, drink more booze and get smarter!

    August 12, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  22. seeitoldyou

    seems low to me

    August 12, 2011 at 7:35 pm |
  23. Rosco P. Jacobsen

    Stupid stats. I'd like to see the difference between the percentage of educated/non-educated annual income spent on booze.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
  24. zoundsman

    Money, money, money all a backseat to unquantifiable (till too late) destruction of the liver, relationships, lost
    sunny upbeat mornings, etc. Stopping all boozing 6 years ago was the best thing I've ever done in my life.
    Give me the stress full in the face, nobody is perfect in this world and I want to fall down and stand up
    again-straight ...without the drunken wobble.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:38 pm |
  25. Stop the presses!

    Wealthier people spend more money on things!

    August 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
  26. steve


    forgot to mention: more $ doesn't necessarily equate to More booze

    but you guys know that. the reporter is just trying to influence you (or really is a moron)

    August 12, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • steve

      I won't even try to recreate my first post that was actually not allowed for some reason

      I was just trying to point out that if you have more money, (which usually comes with more education) then you probably buy more expensive booze.

      August 12, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  27. Alex

    Kevin is right in his conclusion. I do a lot of trade analysis for Diageo and between demographics, the amount of alcohol consumed is pretty consistent but the quality is certainly correlated with wealth. What I do typically see however is the more educated, the less beer is consumed while wine tends to skyrocket up. Most of this seems like common sense till you have to actually quantify it.

    August 12, 2011 at 7:55 pm |
  28. Steve

    Would be a relevant statistic if it was money spent on alcohol expressed as a percentage of total income. I bet the data would then show the opposite.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:12 pm |
  29. Bob

    That's because poor people drink natty ice and people who are well off drink expensive scotch.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  30. JFritz

    Another way to cut federal spending–get rid of useless studies like this one and leave medicare alone.

    August 12, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
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