Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Candy is dandy...

You know it's a good day when the Wall Street Journal tells you it's ok to drink, and that it in fact may make you a better and richer person. I've been a teetotaler lately for a variety of reasons, but I think this is a clear indication that my course of action has been misguided and downright detrimental to my mental, emotional, and (most importantly) fiscal well being.

Drink More, Earn More (& Give More)
By Arthur C. Brooks - July 13, 2005

W.C. Fields once recommended, "Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake." Traditionally, practical rationales for drinking were unconvincing, at best. More recently, however, alcohol's reputation has improved as new benefits from drinking have come to light. Best known are the studies showing the health benefits of moderate alcohol use. It is now so well established that it is almost a cliché that red wine lowers the risk of heart disease. A new study by researchers at the National Cancer Institute also claims that drinkers may have a lower risk of lymphoma than nondrinkers.

Economists assert that benefits from alcohol are also financial, showing that moderate drinking is associated with higher earnings. If two workers are identical in education, age, and other characteristics except that the first has a couple of beers each night after work while the second is a teetotaler, the first will tend to enjoy a "drinker's bonus" in the range of 10% to 25% higher wages. (Don't get carried away with this information, though. Research also shows that beyond about two drinks per day, wages start to fall.)

While it is clear that drinking and prosperity are related, the reasons why are still obscure. Some economists believe that the health benefits of moderate drinking make for greater productivity. Others argue that alcohol is a social lubricant: People who drink together get along better, and make deals. Another possibility is that people who enjoy professional success tend to experience pressure, and so "self-medicate." Whatever the reason, a little drinking might seem like a pleasant way to invest in one's career.

Recently, while toasting the drinker's bonus with a friend, he asked me whether drinking might not be related to virtuous behavior as well: Are moderate drinkers more likely to give to charity? A worthy question, so I did a bit of analysis and found that, indeed, moderate drinkers tend to be more charitable than nondrinkers. For example, 54% of nondrinkers contribute to charity each year, giving away an average of $1,100. In contrast, 62% of those who take one to two drinks per day have an average annual giving level of $1,200. The alcohol effect has diminishing returns, however: Just 40% of people drinking five or more drinks per day are donors, and they give only $230 per year on average. (So once you get past two or three, you have to stop claiming you're "doing it for a good cause.")

The only exception to the pattern of "charity drinking" is the case of giving to religious organizations, which sees a negative impact from alcohol use. For all other types of donations -- to the poor, hospitals, schools, the arts, international aid, etc. -- drinking pushes giving up.

Perhaps you are thinking that this is just a side-effect of income or education differences between moderate drinkers and abstainers. After all, teetotalers have lower average incomes than social drinkers, which might explain why they give less away. But the matter is more complex. Compare two people who are the same in terms of income, education and even religion, but where one drinks moderately and the other doesn't: The drinker will give between $50 and $100 more to charity each year.

Shakespeare's Pericles warned that, one sin "another doth provoke." In the case of booze, however, the good news is that one sin a few virtues doth provoke. So what's the practical advice in all this? As summer broils you, pour yourself a cool drink and raise your glass to your favorite charity. But stop at two and don't forget to write the check.


At 6:24 PM, Anonymous Breff said...

Ha! Hilarious W.C. Fields quote.

At 9:32 PM, Blogger Satisfied '75 said...

cca deuce needs to get off the f'in wagon. wit da quickness, cuz

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Scrubby Nub and The Bothered Brigade said...

Unfortunately drinking is going to cost me. Though I binge, the average is bout two a day. I don't get it.

I'm glad to see two blogs inone week Sasefina.

At 8:47 PM, Blogger tj1972 said...

Nice post. Very interesting. I will no longer deny my desire for those 2 glasses of wine with dinner, and I will await my riches. Of course, I will be sure to always share the wealth.

At 10:28 PM, Blogger Will said...

W.C. Fields also used to keep an thermos style bottle with him on set that he would drink from regularly. When asked it's contents he always claimed it was pineapple juice. While W.C. was not around the crew poured out the contents and replaced it with...pinapple juice. Upon discovering the switch Fields is said to have asked "who put pinapple juice in my pineapple juice?".

At 12:19 AM, Anonymous mrs. satisfied said...

perfect read one martini in on a stay-home friday night. I'm about to mix a second pineapple juice and write a check to the sierra club.


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