The Rich Drink Differently From You and Me

Matt Yglesias, apparently as bored during the August recess as I am, posts a chart today showing that highly educated people spend a lot more on alcohol than poorly educated people. Why is this? James Joyner, who has a PhD to hone his analytical skills and (presumably) also likes to drink, takes a whack at this:

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 160) 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.

James's PhD and alcohol swilling ways have served him well. As this chart from a 2000 paper produced by the BLS shows, 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%.

So yeah: 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. Now you know.