How Thirsty Is Your Town?

A marginally scientific story on last week ranked the United States’$2 15 hardest-drinking cities. MenuPages is proud to boast two markets in the top five: San Francisco, at number three, and Chicago, at number five.

However, as glad as we are to have brought home a couple of “Lushies” (MP Chicago’s imaginary award, not Forbes’), we have issues with the process by which the team at Forbes arrived at its results:

The remaining 33 cities were then ranked based on their residents’ responses to three different questions on the [Center for Disease Control’s 2007 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey]: whether they had at least one drink of alcohol within the past 30 days; whether men had more than two drinks per day or women one drink per day; and whether they had five or more drinks on one occasion. In each case, higher-ranking cities reported larger percentages of their population answering in the affirmative.

To determine the 15 hardest-drinking cities, we added up the rankings from each category, counting the “five or more drinks on one occasion” question twice, since it most directly addresses the question of problem drinking. We then sorted that sum into our final ranks.

So, ok, these categories make some modicum of sense, but they leave a lot out. Are the one or two drink-per-day figures averages? If a person had binged on five drinks six times over the 30-day period, would they gain the city drunk-points for both one drink a day and binge drinking? How about the sample size? We’re told the CDC surveyed 350,000 Americans, but there’s no word on how many folks of what ages and genders responded per city. We could go on, but you get the point.

Basically, according to this one set of fuzzy research, San Francisco is not as boozy as first-place winner Austin or runner-up Milwaukee, but it is more sauced than honorable mention Providence (fourth) or Chicago. Boston came in ninth after a three-way tie for eighth between Seattle, Cleveland and St. Louis. Philadelphia and South Florida didn’t make the list, though Florida was represented by Jacksonville (14th) and Pennsylvania got on the board with Pittsburgh (11th).

America’s Hard-Drinking Cities []

[Photo: Manhattans at San Francisco’s Vesuvio via bradleyjames/flickr]

How Thirsty Is Your Town?