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Eat, drink, and earn money

February 23, 2011

We have all heard that alcohol in moderation appears to offer health benefits , from reducing the risk of heart attack to even decreasing susceptibility to the common cold. And for the many people who consume alcohol, drinking sometimes has entertainment value, as well.

But I live in North Carolina, where we have some of the highest beer taxes in the nation and I still cannot buy spirits from private stores. Nationally, we hear from groups such as the American Medical Association that alcohol has many downsides, such as it gets in the way of peoples’ careers. Even Donald Trump says, “I’d like to see the lawyers start going after the alcohol companies, ’cause I think alcohol is a much greater detriment than cigarettes.”

But there’s good news for those who like drinking and want good careers: economic data shows that drinkers actually earn significantly more money than non-drinkers.

In an article in the Journal of Labor Research, co-author Bethany Peters and I looked at data on 7,500 people. We held numerous variables, such as education and age, constant in order to isolate the effects of drinking. Roughly 75 percent of adults are drinkers and 25 percent are abstainers. Holding other variables equal, we found that someone who drinks earns 10 percent more on average than someone who does not. We also found that men who reported going to a bar at least once in the last month earn an additional 7 percent. That’s 17 percent more money than people who don’t go out or drink.

Why do drinkers earn more? We believe it’s because drinkers have bigger social networks and that enables them to make more money. If drinkers know more people, they will be more likely to find a better job. In addition, drinkers also may be more likely to get along well with coworkers and clients than the person who likes to stay at home and play video games. That can explain why drinkers who drink in bars tend to earn the most.

Read the rest of the article.

Edward Peter Stringham, Ph.D., is the Hackley Endowed Chair for Capitalism and Free Enterprise Studies at Fayetteville State University.

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