Science: The t-shirt!

Study: Social drinking raises your income by up to 17%

Economists have long noticed that people who drink tend to make more money than those who don’t. Now a new study offers a theory to explain this: People who drink are more socially gregarious than nondrinkers, which increases the size of their Rolodexes and, by extension, their earning potential.

Or to put it another way: Drinking is the original social-networking technology.

In their paper — “No Booze? You May Lose: Why Drinkers Earn More Money Than Nondrinkers” — Bethany Peters and Edward Stringham used General Social Survey data to classify respondents into non-drinking, drinking, and “social drinking” categories. When the economists examined the respondents’ earnings, they found that drinkers made about 10 to 14 per cent more than abstainers. Even more suggestively, “social” drinkers — the ones out in bars — made an additional 7 per cent on top of the normal drinking premium. As Stringham told the AFP, “social drinkers are out networking, building relationships, and adding contacts to their BlackBerries that result in bigger paychecks.”

In contrast, abstainers have smaller social networks. This, the authors suggest, may be because …

… abstainers may prefer to interact with other abstainers or less social people. Alternately, abstainers might not be invited to social gatherings, work-related or otherwise, because drinkers consider abstainers dull.

Heh. If the prose were any drier this study would spontaneously combust. Given that this work was done for the libertarian Reason Foundation, it’s probably not surprising that the authors regard antidrinking advocacy as total buzzkill. And I have to admit, as a devoted fan of both high-end single-malt scotch and egregiously cheap beer, I kind of enjoyed all the cheap shots leveled at teetotallers. I also chuckled at how Peters and Stringham described the way they developed their hypothesis: A combination of “casual observation and scholarly accounts”, which sounds like code for “getting smashed at Trader Vic’s.”

And check out the wacky graphics they included in the paper! I’ve excerpted some above. It’s all this clip-art of people drinking themselves legless. If I weren’t convinced the study is legit I’d suspect those pictures were the covert signal that this is a media prank.

(Thanks to Plastic for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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