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No booze may hurt career

By Jennifer Harper

From The Washington Times, September 15, 2006

Rolodexes are dandy, but liquor may be quicker. Those who tipple earn more, at least according to a provocative study called "No Booze? You May Lose," released yesterday by a pair of economists.

The study also concludes that alcohol restrictions in public venues or on colleges campus are both anti-social and harmful to the economy.

"People basically assume that alcohol is bad for you economically. It's been advocated for years, with people quoting from the Bible that drinking can lead to ruin," said Edward Stringham, an associate professor of economics at San Jose University and an adjunct scholar with the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation, which published the study.

"We looked at the economics of it and found just the opposite. Our results suggest that drinking leads to higher earnings by increasing social capital," Mr. Stringham said, adding that he has yet to hear complaints from Alcoholics Anonymous or other advocacy groups.

"I am scheduled, however, to debate a representative from Harvard University who opposes my views," he added.

Harvard has studied the negative effects of collegiate drinking since 1998 and has concluded that those who cultivate genuine social capital actually drink less. But Mr. Stringham and co-author Bethany Peters, a Dallas-based economist, beg to differ. "Drinkers may be able to socialize more with clients and co-workers, giving drinkers an advantage in important relationships," they write. "Drinking may also provide individuals with opportunities to learn people, business and social skills."

The two researchers compared national statistics on alcohol consumption, social habits and employment among 10,000 adults polled in the current General Social Survey. They found that overall, drinkers earned 10 percent to 14 percent more than nondrinkers did.

There were differences in how alcohol consumption affected career prospects of men and women. The employed "average male drinker" earns 19 percent more than the "average male abstainer." Among employed women, those who imbibe earned 23 percent more than those who didn't.

Men who frequent bars at least once a month earned an additional 7 percent than those who stayed away. But the benefit of bar boozing on salary did not hold true for women.

"Frequenting bars at least once a month appears to have no effect. Perhaps women increase social capital apart from drinking in bars," the study stated.

The findings were published as "Policy Brief 44" by the Reason Foundation and contained recommendations.

"Restrictions on drinking are likely to have harmful economic effects," the study said, adding that such restrictions pushed "drinking into private settings" and thus lowered productive social interaction.

"Advocates of alcohol restrictions may be the ones engaging in anti-social behavior. Rather than attempting to discourage drinking in society, we should encourage it," the study concluded.

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