San Diego: Top Spenders on Alcohol in 2017

San Diego skyline (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press)
Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press

San Diego won the 2017 crown as top U.S. city per capita for spending on alcohol beverages at $1,112 per person, based on an analysis of two decades of government data.

Delphi Behavioral Health Group, which operates alcohol detox and treatment centers across the nation analyzed the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey to determine why U.S. purchases of hard liquor and wines have seen record sales, while beer sales still topped $37 billion in 2017.

Delphi found that three-quarters of Americans drink alcoholic beverages, and the category ranked twelfth in personal consumption at 0.8 percent of consumer spending, up about 56.6 percent from $309 in 1996 to $484 in 2016.

The big gains for the beverage industry revenue were partially due to the increased sales of finer quality wines with the average purchase price for one liter of wine up 150.4 percent.

The other major variable for U.S. alcohol purchases was geographic. The West was the top spender on alcohol at $576 in 2016, up 63.2 percent in the last two decades. The Northeast was second at $567, up 104 percent; the Midwest third at $490, up 101.7 percent; and the South trailed at $388, up 52.2 percent.

Delphi’s top ten cities for alcohol purchases included 1) San Diego: $1,112; 2) Seattle: $986; 3) San Francisco: $875; 4) Boston: $823; 5) Anchorage: $788; 6) Denver: $771; 7) Minneapolis-St. Paul: $754; 8) Baltimore: $724; 9) St. Louis: $684; and 10) Washington, DC: $662.

San Diego took the national lead with a 30.8 percent jump from $850 in 2016 to $1,112 in 2017. That was more than enough to dethrone San Francisco, which dropped to third with a 22.8 percent plunge in per capita alcohol purchases from $1,131 in 2016 to just $875 in 2017.

Seattle moved into second place in 2017 with the largest percentage gain in per capita alcohol purchases at 32 percent, spiking up from $787 in 2016 to $984 in 2017.

Delphi found that over the last 20 years, older so-called “baby boomer” Americans increased their alcohol spending dramatically, led by retired professionals who spent 186 percent more money on alcohol than average retirees 20 years earlier.

But in a surprising revelation, younger Americans born after 1989 spent 25 percent less on alcohol than similar aged young people in 1996. Delphi credits the decline to a trend by many millennials choosing to live sober.


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