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United States: alcohol consumption per person 1850-2013, by type

Alcohol consumption among the US public is at a relatively similar rate in the 21st century as it was in the nineteenth. The first drop in consumption appeared in the 1860s and 1870s, due to the American Civil War and the period of economic recovery that followed. After this, consumption rose again until the First World War, before it fell from 9.7 liters per person per year in 1915 to 7.4 in 1919. Following the war, the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution came into effect, which prohibited the importation, manufacturing and sale (but not consumption) of alcohol. From this point until Prohibition's end, there are no reliable figures regarding alcohol consumption in the US, however some sources suggest that consumption fell to thirty percent of its pre-prohibition levels in the first few years, but then grew to sixty or seventy percent by prohibition's end.

High spirits in the 70s and 80s

Total consumption then grew again in the 1930s and 40s, reaching 8.7 liters per person in 1946, before it plateaued at around 7.6 liters per person per year in the 1950s. Alcohol consumption then increased gradually to more than ten liters per person per year in the 1970s and 1980s, which was the highest rate of alcohol consumption in recorded US history. It then dropped to just over eight liters in the late 1990s, and gradually increased again to 8.9 liters per person in 2013, which is similar to figures recorded more than 160 years previously.

Beer moves a-head

The late 1800s also saw a major shift in the type of alcohol consumed. In 1850, 7.1 out of the eight liters consumed was through spirits, while beer and wine made up 0.5 and 0.3 liters respectively. However, by the turn of the twentieth century, alcohol was most commonly consumed through beer, and excluding a brief increase in spirits consumption in the 1960s, beer has been the most common source of alcohol since 1900. Alcohol from wine consumption has also gradually increased throughout US history, reaching its highest point in 2013, where the average US citizen consumed 1.6 liters of alcohol per year by drinking wine.

Annual alcohol consumption per capita by type of alcoholic beverage in the United States from 1850 to 2013

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Release date

November 2019


United States

Survey time period

1850 to 2013

Supplementary notes

Please note the irregular intervals before 1934.

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Statistics on "Alcohol consumption in the United Kingdom "

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