Stay in School, Drink More

The more education you have, the more you're likely to spend on booze.

Matt Yglesias provides this handy chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

What this means, exactly, is open to speculation. Since I have a PhD and a blog, I shall take advantage of the opening.

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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. mantis says:

    Yeah, that’s a silly chart. More money on booze does not necessarily equal more booze. Hell, I probably spend more money on alcohol than I did when I was 21, and I don’t even drink anymore. I buy it for gifts, parties, etc., but I’m still buying it. The difference is when I was 21 I drank cheap crap, because that’s what I could afford. Now, if I buy alcohol, it’s quality.

  2. John Burgess says:

    Considering the sales of ‘beers’ like Budweiser and Miller, I think your assumption about the more highly educated drinking more is perhaps open to question.

  3. john personna says:

    Sierra Nevada “Best of Beer Camp“, highly recommended.

  4. SnotRag Dave says:

    “Dogfish 160“??? Try “60”, “90”, or “120”.

  5. Sterling Crews says:

    “Dogfish 160”

    Perhaps you are referring to Dogfish Head 60 or Dogfish Head 120? I’ve never seen a 160 version, but please point me to it if there is indeed a 160 IPA.

  6. John Voorheis says:

    I mean, small point, but Dogfish head makes 60, 75, 90 and 120 minute IPAs, but not 160.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Sterling Crews and @John Voorheis: Fixed. I meant 120.

  8. Rob in CT says:

    Once I got a job and had a solid income, I kept right on drinking but I started to upgrade what I was drinking. In college, when I was using limited fraternity funds, we drank The Beast (Milwaukee’s Best) and Natty Light (Natural Light) at $40/keg. It was godawful, but whaddya gonna do? Play beer pong with good beer, using money you don’t have? Back then, Killian’s (made by Coors, but vaguely drinkable) was “the good stuff.”

    We’re now in a golden age of American brewing. The selection nowadays is wonderful. I tend to pay around $9 to $11 per six pack, because I buy micro and craft brews almost exclusively. I literally cannot remember the last time I drank swill (Bud, Coors, etc).

    Another DogFish comment: they make many interesting beers, but in my experience only a few really good ones. I love that they’re out there, experimenting. But the only one’s I’ve enjoyed have been: 60-minute IPA, Punkin and Aprihop. Punkin and Aprihop in particular (spring & fall seasonals) are favorites of mine.

    I also started drinking more wine, though I tend to drink fairly cheap wine ($12-$20/bottle), as my experiments with pricier stuff ($30-$50) haven’t resulted in much (if any) improvement. There are a lot of perfectly tasty wines out there at my preferred pricepoint 🙂

    I don’t drink the hard stuff, but if I did, I’d probably be buying Macallan (18, not 12).

  9. James Joyner says:

    @Rob in CT: The 18 is definitely an upgrade over the 12 but, even making a nice living, the jump from $55 a bottle to $110 a bottle is hard to justify. I understand it’s cheaper in other places but there’s a state monopoly on spirit sales in the Commonwealth of Virginia and it’s no cheaper in DC.

  10. Rob in CT says:

    Like I said, I don’t drink scotch. I never more than dabbled in it. If I did continue to dabble, I’d probably pony up for the 18. I’d be buying, max, a bottle a year. If I was a regular scotch drinker, well, yeah, I wouldn’t be paying $110/bottle (I’m pretty sure our non-monopoly pricing is about the same).

    I tried some Macallan 15 recently (at a wine tasting event) and just couldn’t stomach it. Its beer & wine for me.

  11. James Joyner says:

    @Rob in CT: Yeah, I go through a bottle . . . well, let’s just say more than once a year. I’m not a fan of the Fine Oak Macallans, much preferring the traditional Sherry Oak varietal. The 15 that’s most available in these parts are the former.

  12. Umlud says:

    I saw this posted on the Daily Dish, and I wanted to put in my tuppence:

    If you divide the amount spent on booze for each group by the groups median annual income, you’ll get a slightly more informative number:

    Less than HS: 0.88% of median annual income.
    High School: 0.95%
    Some College: 1.02%
    Associates Degree: 1.03%
    Bachelor Degree: 1.33%
    Advanced Degree: 0.90%*

    Still, this doesn’t provide any information about the amount of alcohol drunk by the groups, the cost of the alcohol, nor the purpose of the purchases. However, it does add the wrinkle that advanced degree holders may* be acting differently than the rest of the trend.

    * For the category of advanced degree, I took the average of the values listed for masters, doctorate, and professional.

  13. SFSkeptic says:

    This is a perfect illustration of why I support abandoning our current tax system and adopting the VAT. Wealthier people buy more expensive cars, eat more expensive food and drink more expensive alcohol…and will pay more in taxes. At the same time, no one gets a free ride…even people economically disadvantaged will pay some tax…as well it should be.

  14. An Interested Party says:

    At the same time, no one gets a free ride…even people economically disadvantaged will pay some tax…as well it should be.

    As if those people don’t already pay some tax…

  15. Piggybacking on everyone else, the quantity of booze I consume as an overly educated person now is way lower than when I was still a student, but the quality/price per ounce is way higher.

    I see the same pattern in my friends and acquaintances. There is a price/quality trade-off far more than a quantity trade-off that is related to income. I noticed this last night at a soccer game that I refereed. One team was mostly composed of guys with associates or less. The other team was 90% lawyers, engineers, docs in their residencies… End of a good 2-1 game, each team offered the refs beer (always a good way to stay in our favor) One team offered Bud/Bud Light and the other offered Sierra Nevada.

  16. A voice from another precinct says:

    @James Joyner: You guys are too “snooty” and not very smart about it to boot. I can’t say about the DC area, but in Oregon and (too a lesser degree) Washington where I am from, there are really good (but not famous) single scotch whiskeys available for $30 or 40 a fifth. Of course, in Korea, where I currently live, I can buy a fifth of Glenlivit for about $25 (partly from the soft dollar); or, if I’m prestiege conscious, I can go to Lotte and get a “Special Edition” bottle of Jameson’s for roughly $1000. Mostly though, I don’t drink and can’t tell much difference between 12 and 18 years old.

  17. A voice from another precinct says:

    @Umlud: Or the difference between 0.88% and 1.33% may be statistically insignificant allowing for the margin of error of the original source.

  18. James Joyner says:

    @A voice from another precinct: I don’t buy by the fifth but the standard 750ml bottle. And I don’t drink by prestige but by taste. I don’t much like Glenlivet but, in any case, it’s almost exactly the same price as the Macalan. Jameson’s is an Irish whiskey.

  19. Lyn says:

    I can’t draw any conclusions from this survey data. Would be interesting to see the real data if one substituted marijuana in the survey for booze. Also would be interesting to see the age of respondents. Answers from young people who are dropouts, for example, probably would be very different from answers of older adults who never made it through high school.