Which US City's Residents Spend The Most On Alcohol?

By Kelly Burch 08/20/18

A recent survey found that residents of one populous US city spend more than $1,000 on alcohol annually.

Man shopping for alcohol in market

People in San Francisco spend more money on alcohol than residents of any other U.S. city—dropping an average of $1,131 per year (or 1.5% of their annual pay) on beer, wine and liquor, according to SF Gate

The finding emerged from data on Americans' spending on alcohol compiled by Delphi Behavioral Health Group from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Consumer Expenditure Survey.

The analysis found that nationally, Americans spend $484 per year on alcoholic beverages. Spending on alcohol had increased 56.6% since 1996. 

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean people are consuming more, according to Matthew Insco, who works at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"(Something) to keep in mind—these figures show how much households spend, not necessarily how much they consume," he said. "For example, one area could drink less but spend more by buying more expensive types of alcohol.”

The analysis by Delphi found that wine prices have increased more than 150% since 1996, and beer prices have increased by 61%. 

“These price spikes suggest that rising costs account for much of the increase in Americans’ alcohol spending: People may not be drinking more frequently, but they’re definitely paying more for the privilege of the pint,” the report noted. 

The report authors also noted that the average spending could be deceptively low. Given that more than a quarter of Americans don’t drink at all, those who do imbibe are spending more than it seems at first glance. 

“Assuming that this sober cohort spends no money on alcohol, those who do drink likely spend considerably more than $484 annually on average,” the report said. 

Adults between the ages of 25 and 64 all spend an average of about $540 annually on alcohol, with older and younger adults spending less. People with master’s degrees or higher spend the largest percentage of their income on alcohol. 

After San Francisco, Minneapolis and San Diego residents spend the most on alcohol at $852 and $850 respectively. Residents in Tampa, Dallas-Fort Worth and Atlanta spend the least, at $411, $373 and $291.

Surprisingly, New York and Chicago residents also have relatively low spending, at $446 and $492. 

Americans spend more on alcohol than they do on smoking or tobacco. They also spend four times as much on alcohol as they do on reading. 

“While none of these cities lack for establishments serving or selling liquor, residents spent less than $500 a year on drinking on average,” the report said. 

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.