The Drunkest (and Driest) Cities in America

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The Drunkest Cities in America

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20. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI
> Pct. adults drinking to excess: 22.5%
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 36.4%
> Est. number of restaurants and bars: 2,921 (185.8 per 100,000)
> Median household income: $58,029

Some 22.5% of adults in the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis metro area either binge or heavily drink, one of the highest excessive drinking rates of any metro area and well above the U.S. excessive drinking rate of 18.0%.

Excessive drinking rates in Wisconsin are higher outside of urban areas. Across Wisconsin, 26.2% of adults drink excessively, the largest share of any U.S. state. Of the 12 metro areas in the state, Green Bay is the only one with a higher excessive drinking rate than the state as a whole.

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19. Ames, IA
> Pct. adults drinking to excess: 22.7%
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 15.0%
> Est. number of restaurants and bars: 176 (181.3 per 100,000)
> Median household income: $53,371

Binge drinking is relatively common among college age students, and Ames, Iowa, has the highest concentration of college students of any U.S. city. Some 32.6% of Ames residents are enrolled in college, more than four times the national average. The fall 2017 enrollment for Iowa State University in Ames was over 36,000.

Some 22.7% of adults in the city report drinking excessively in the last month. A high excessive drinking rate does not necessarily mean drunk driving is also common. There were 3.6 alcohol related driving deaths for every 100,000 driving age residents in Ames between 2011 and 2015, the lowest rate of any metro area in the country.

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18. Fairbanks, AK
> Pct. adults drinking to excess: 22.7%
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 37.8%
> Est. number of restaurants and bars: 164 (163.0 per 100,000)
> Median household income: $77,328

Of Alaska’s two metro areas, Fairbanks and Anchorage, Fairbanks has the higher excessive drinking rate. Still, the excessive drinking rate in both Fairbanks, at 22.7%, and Anchorage, at 22.2%, far exceed the 19.1% rate across the state as a whole.

Excessive drinking is not the only unhealthy habit that is more common in Fairbanks than in Anchorage. Adults in Fairbanks are also less likely to exercise and more likely to smoke than residents in Alaska’s only other metro area.

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17. Lincoln, NE
> Pct. adults drinking to excess: 22.7%
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 25.5%
> Est. number of restaurants and bars: 668 (204.5 per 100,000)
> Median household income: $59,344

The University of Nebraska in Lincoln has more than 26,000 students on its campus, and many of them are likely contributing to the area’s high excessive alcohol consumption rate. A National Institutes of Health study found that 60% of college students report drinking at least once in the last month, and 40% of students report binge drinking.

Lincoln is the only metro area in Nebraska on this list, even though adults in the state are some of the most likely to drink excessively. Some 21.1% of adults in Nebraska reported drinking to excess, the fifth highest rate among states.

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16. Watertown-Fort Drum, NY
> Pct. adults drinking to excess: 22.9%
> Pct. driving deaths involving alcohol: 32.8%
> Est. number of restaurants and bars: 270 (236.8 per 100,000)
> Median household income: $45,624

New York state’s 18.8% excessive drinking rate is similar to the nationwide excessive drinking rate of 18.0%. New York is one the most populous states in the country, and not all communities report similar alcohol consumption habits. In the Watertown-Fort Drum metro area, 22.9% of adults either binge or heavily drink, a larger share than in any of the state’s 11 other metro areas and the 16th largest rate of any metro area in the country.

Metro areas with high excessive drinking rates are often wealthier than areas with healthier drinking habits. Watertown-Fort Drum is an exception. The typical area household earns $45,624 a year, the lowest median income of any metro area in the state and well below the U.S. annual median of $57,617.