Special Report

The Drunkest (and Driest) Cities in America

Source: Thinkstock

10. La Crosse-Onalaska, WI-MN
> Pct. adults drinking to excess: 23.8%
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 26.4%
> Est. number of bars: 88
> Median household income: $50,705

The 23.8% excessive drinking rate in the La Crosse, Minnesota metro area is higher than in the vast majority of U.S. metro areas and slightly higher than the 21.1% statewide excessive drinking rate.

Excessive drinking has considerable economic implications. According a study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, excessive drinking costs the U.S. economy $249.0 billion 2015. Much of that cost was in the form of medical treatment and lost productivity. In La Crosse, however, drinking is big business. With 6.4 bars for every 10,000 residents, the metro area has the highest concentration of drinking establishments of any U.S. metro area.

Source: Thinkstock

9. Wausau, WI
> Pct. adults drinking to excess: 24.2%
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 28.9%
> Est. number of bars: 57
> Median household income: $55,687

With 24.2% of adults reporting excessive drinking in the last 30 days, Wausau is one of 10 Wisconsin metro areas to rank among the heaviest drinking nationwide. Wisconsin’s excessive drinking rate of 24.5% is itself higher than in most of the state’s metro areas, including Wausau.

Binge drinking is less common among low income individuals, and very few Wausau metro area residents face serious financial hardship. The metro area’s poverty rate of 8.9% is one of the lowest of any U.S. metros and well below the 14.7% national poverty rate.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

8. Grand Forks, ND-MN
> Pct. adults drinking to excess: 24.2%
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 34.0%
> Est. number of bars: 45
> Median household income: $53,443

Excessive drinking is more prevalent among college students than the population at large. In the Grand Forks metro area, home to the University of North Dakota, 13.0% of residents are either in college or graduate school, nearly double the comparable 7.0% share nationwide. A large college population may partially explain the metro area’s near nation-leading 24.2% excessive drinking rate.

Source: Djembayz / Wikimedia Commons

7. Missoula, MT
> Pct. adults drinking to excess: 24.3%
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 44.4%
> Est. number of bars: 41
> Median household income: $42,815

According to the CDC, binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report impaired driving. In the Missoula metro area, where nearly one-in-four adults report drinking excessively in the last 30 days, 44.4% of all driving deaths involve alcohol, one of the highest such shares of any metro area and well above the comparable 30% national share.

Affluent individuals are more likely to have the means to drink to excess, but relative to the other metropolitan areas on this, Missoula is relatively low-income. The typical area household has an income of just $42,815. It is the only metro area on this list with a median household income below $50,000.

Source: Thinkstock

6. Oshkosh-Neenah, WI
> Pct. adults drinking to excess: 24.5%
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 47.9%
> Est. number of bars: 93
> Median household income: $52,136

In the Oshkosh-Neenah metro area, 24.5% of adults report drink excessively, exactly the same as the share of adults statewide reporting excessive drinking.

Driving many area residents to consume to excess may be the widespread availability of drinking establishments in the area. There are an estimated 93 bars in the Oshkosh-Neenah metro area, or about 5.5 for every 10,000 people, the third highest concentration among U.S. metro areas.