Monday, March 18, 2013

Today in WTF: Booze, The Great Equalizer

Do you feel oppressed by affluent, white males? Are you struggling to fit in with your peers? If so, you may want to start binge drinking in order to boost your social status and satisfaction. A study is out which examined levels of alcohol consumption and the relationship with social satisfaction in selective Northeastern liberal arts colleges. Some interesting results were found. Binge drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks for a female and 5 or more drinks for a male. Sounds like a typical Tuesday Friday night right?

Binge drinking on these college campuses is associated with affluent, white males, a high status group. "Students, who are considered more socially powerful, drink more," said Hsu, who co-authored the study with Landon Reid, a former faculty member at Colgate who is now attending law school at NYU. "Binge drinking then becomes associated with high status and the 'cool' students on campus." The study showed that lower status individuals (think females, poor, minorities, LGBT) who didn't binge drink had less social satisfaction with their lives. That isn't surprising. What was surprising is that binge drinkers from that same demographic reported about the same social satisfaction as the high status white males.

The most stressed and anxious students were the least likely group to binge drink, so they weren't self-medicating their negative emotions away -- often a driver of alcoholism. These happy binge drinkers were drinking to fit in as they felt it was the only thing socially acceptable thing to do for leisure. “Low status students in particular seem to be using binge drinking as a vehicle for social mobility and as a way to contend with an otherwise hostile social environment,” Hsu said.

This started me thinking about whether or not alcohol has these positive social effects as we graduate, become adults and get real jobs. Surely we'd realize that the binge drinking has some bad health effects along with social problems. A quick google search suggests that maybe we do.

A Michigan's Panel Study of Income Dynamics in 2001 found that those who drank 1-2 drinks a day had a mean income of $49k versus $36k for those who abstained. This study looked at similar demographic groups in order to make this distinction. Those that drank had a "drinker's bonus" of about 10% higher income.

Ok, that is moderate drinking, what about binge drinking as an adult?

This same Michigan study showed that income peaks at 2.6 drinks per day for men and 1.5 per women. At binge levels of 5 drinks per day, the average man is earning 21% below the maximum and women earn 65% less than if she stopped at 1.5 drinks per day. Once again, women get screwed.

So what to do with this information? Clearly the answer is to drink in order to be socially and financially successful, just drink less after you graduate from college.

A version of this post was originally posted at

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