How much drinking?

New Year’s Eve seems a good night for this post.  So, I’m reading a terrific book about drug policy by Mark Kleimann and, not surprisingly, there’s a lot of discussion about lessons from how we regulate (and don’t regulate) alcohol.  One factoid really struck me was the number of non-drinkers.   Guess what percent of Americans has less than 1 drink a month.   Okay.  What if I told you it’s over fifty percent.  Yep.  I was completely surprised by that.  To think my near tea-totaling ways are actually in a majority (at least according to the drinkyr variable in the 2004 GSS).  A full 1/5th of Americans basically don’t drink at all.   Also turns out that alcohol consumption is an almost perfect example of the Pareto principle– 20% of drinkers account for 80% of consumption.  Which, of course, means that all the advertising, as well as the policy-lobbying efforts of the alcohol industry is really focused on just a slim slice of the population.

Here’s a cool chart of alcohol consumption using the handy do-it-yourself GSS site:


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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