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What do Americans spend on alcohol?

The amount we spend on beer, wine and spirits hasn't changed much in 30 years, but where we spend it has.

By Giselle Smith Jun 21, 2012 4:41PM

Image: Beer (© Corbis)What percentage of your spending goes toward booze?

If you're an average American consumer, 1% of your spending is dedicated to beer, wine and spirits -- or about $1 of every $100, NPR reports, citing the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure hasn't actually changed much in the past 30 years.


What has changed, however, is where we spend that money. In 1982, Americans spent 24% of their alcohol dollars in bars and restaurants, and 76% at retail stores. By 2011, the bar and restaurant share had jumped to 40%, and retail had fallen to 60%.


This doesn't mean Americans have been drinking out a lot more, but rather that the cost of doing so has increased, NPR says, citing a 79% increase in alcohol prices in restaurants and bars between 1982 and 2011, adjusted for inflation. Meanwhile, the cost of alcohol in stores decreased 39% over the same period.


Consumers' beverage of choice when drinking at home has also changed somewhat. The largest percentage of retail dollars still went for beer: 47.7% in 2011, compared with 48.9% in 1982. However, spirits, which captured 34.6% in 1982, accounted for only 12.6% in 2011. Wine purchases jumped from 16.2% to 39.7%.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg says, canned beer is making a comeback. Almost 53% of beer consumed in the U.S. in 2011 came in aluminum cans instead of bottles or on tap, compared with a low of 48% in a handful of years before the recession. (Post continues below.)

Bloomberg credited the shift to the recession, the rise in canned craft beers and "hipsters," who have made Pabst Blue Ribbon their signature brew.


How much do Americans drink?

According to a Gallup survey last year, 64% of American adults reported drinking alcohol. The poll indicated that Americans prefer wine and beer almost equally (35% and 36%, respectively) over liquor (23%).


The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says U.S. per capita consumption in 2009 was the equivalent of 2.3 gallons (8.7 liters) of pure alcohol, a lot less than the 2.76 gallons in 1981 but more than the 2.14 gallons in 1997.

The average American drank the equivalent of 8.48 liters of pure alcohol in 2005, according to the World Health Organization's Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2011. The global per capita average has been relatively consistent since 1990, about 4.3 to 4.7 liters. Estonia reported the highest per capita consumption in 2005: 16.2 liters.


Do your purchases of adult beverages represent 1% of your overall spending? And are you spending more on drinks at bars and restaurants than you used to?


More on MSN Money:

Jun 22, 2012 10:53AM

I don't buy corporate sponsored poison.


Alcohol and firearms are the bane of American society, destroying every single life they touch.



Jun 22, 2012 8:32AM

Bull statistics! 1% average includes the 40-50 million that dont' consume any. The average worker stops at the convenience store EVERY day after work for $ 4-10 six pack or giant cans of beer plus weekend drinking.

That comes to $50+ a week $ 2500 a year  so that means he makes $250,000 a year. Right?

20-30 year olds at bars & clubs $20- $50 a night  1-2 nights a week  $ 3-4,000 a year, so I guess they make

$500,000 a year.  Underage college & high school drinking, $10-20 week and they don't work.

And best of all, how many of the 40 million drnkers are without health insurance and can't find any money to buy insurance but find their booze money. 

The right has figurered it out.  Scare you that Obama will take your guns, and you spend billions to help the NRA and gun makers. Tell you no government can tell you to insure yourself or family and you don't need to take personal responsibility.  If you can go to emergency room and cost all of us hundreds of billions in your medical bills and spend instead on drinking why not. Right Republicans? 



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