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The Geography of American Binge Drinking

The Geography of American Binge Drinking
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Lots of Americans binge drink, according to data released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Binge drinking, according to the CDC, amounts to consuming five or more drinks for men and four or more for women within a short period of time.  

The report includes interesting data on state-by-state patterns outlined in the map below:

Binge drinking varies from one in ten adults (10.9 percent) at the low end of the spectrum to more than one in four (25.6 percent) at the high end. There is something of a binge drinking belt across the north of the country, running westward from New England, Pennsylvania and Ohio to Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Montana. Alaska ranks high too, suggesting that long, cold winters might play a role, though tropical Hawaii is in the top tier as well.

With the help of my MPI colleague Charlotta Mellander, I took a quick look at some of the economic and demographic factors that might be associated with binge drinking. The correlations that we noticed, of course, do not prove causation, only that an association exists. Several factors do stand out, however.

Binge drinking is more common in liberal states, those voted for Obama in 2008, and it is negatively associated with states that voted for McCain (with correlations of roughly .3  and -.3 respectively). Binge drinking states are also more "extroverted."  The correlation between extroverted personality types  (one of the "big five" personality traits identified by psychologists) and binge drinking is .3. 

Binge drinking is also more prevalent in more affluent states (the correlation with economic output per capita is .3). This is in line with the CDC’s own finding that the income group with the most binge drinkers is those making more than $75,000. Binge drinking is also higher in more educated states, with a correlation of .36 to the share of adults who are college grads. Both are in line with national patterns I charted last year, which found even stronger associations between alcohol consumption and economic output and human capital. Although I should also note that the CDC found that the income group that binge drinks more often (as opposed to the sheer number of binge drinking participants) and drinks the most per binge is those making $25,000 a year or less.
 

Still it may come as some surprise that binge drinking is more prevalent in states whose socio-economic profiles would seem more in line with latte sipping than brewski chugging. 

Top image credit: prochasson frederic / Shutterstock.com

Keywords: Drinking, America, Geography

Richard Florida is Co-Founder and Editor at Large at The Atlantic Cities. He's also a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, and Global Research Professor at New York University. He is a frequent speaker to communities, business and professional organizations, and founder of the Creative Class Group, whose current client list can be found here. All posts »

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