Special Report

The Drunkest City in Every State

The top 20 cities with the lowest excessive drinking rates are in the South. With the exception of Utah, most of them are in Tennessee, Oklahoma, and West Virginia. By contrast, the cities with the highest rates of excessive drinking are in the Midwest, with eight of the top 10 located in Wisconsin.

A state’s metro area where adults report the highest rates of excessive drinking is not indicative of whether that city has an alcohol problem. In fact, the drunkest metro areas in 11 states have lower excessive drinking rates than the country’s average of 18%.

In more than half of the states, the alcohol-impaired driving deaths in metro areas with the most excessive drinking are inversely correlated with the statewide rate. This suggests that more people in rural areas die in car crashes where alcohol played a role than in urban areas. In fact, in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, even though 19% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, and 30% of total miles traveled were in them, they accounted for half of all traffic fatalities.

Metro areas with more excessive drinking have a few socioeconomic characteristics in common. For example, cities with heavier drinking populations tend to have low unemployment rates. Only 16 metro areas with high levels of excessive drinking had lower household income than the average for their state.

Perhaps surprisingly, heavier drinking cities tend to be better educated than their respective states as a whole. Of the 50 metro areas on this list, only 13 are home to a smaller share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree than their state.

To identify the drunkest city in each state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the percentage of men and women over 18 who reported in 2016 binge or heavy drinking in each state’s metro areas. Metro level data was aggregated from county level data assembled in 2018 by County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program.

Health outcomes, including the number of deaths before age 75 per 100,000 people, also known as the premature death rate, and the percentage of adults who report fair or poor health also came from county-level data obtained from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps. Alcohol related driving fatalities are for the years 2012-2016 and came from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.

Social and economic factors, including median household income and percentage of adults who have completed at least a bachelor’s degree came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 1-year American Community Survey.

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