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Shifting Trends in U.S. Alcohol Consumption in the 21st Century

How has the taste of Americans for alcohol changed since the start of the 21st century?

We're going to answer that question today using excise tax collection data reported by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to the Internal Revenue Service from 2000 through 2017, which can give us an idea of how much beer, wine and distilled spirits Americans are consuming because the federal excise taxes that apply for these products are assessed by the gallon or barrel. Since the excise tax rates for these products have been stable since the beginning of the century, the amount of taxes per capita (or really, per American adult Age 21 or older) should be directly proportionate to the amount of each of these alcohol types that Americans have consumed in each year since 2000.

The following chart shows what we found in doing that math:

U.S. Alcohol Excise Taxes per Adult (Age 21+ Population), by Alcohol Type, 2000-2017

Overall, the amount of alcohol excise taxes collected per Age 21+ American has risen from $41.12 in 2000 to $44.89 in 2017, which suggests that the average adult American has increased their alcohol consumption by 9%. Within that consumption, there are clear rising trends for wine and especially for distilled spirits, which are displacing beer as a source of alcohol excise tax revenue for the U.S. government.

These trends can be seen more clearly in the following chart, where we show the relative share that each type of alcohol has contributed to federal excise tax collections from 2000 through 2017.

Relative Share of U.S. Alcohol Excise Tax Revenue by Alcohol Type, 2000-2017


Political Calculations. U.S. Federal Alcohol Taxes in the 21st Century, 23 August 2018.

U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Federal Excise Taxes or Fees Reported to or Collected by the Internal Revenue Service, Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, and Customs Service. 1999-2016. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 18 August 2018.

U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. Intercensal Estimates of the Resident Population by Single Year of Age and Sex for States and the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2010. [CSV Data]. 12 December 2016. Accessed 18 August 2018.

U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division. Annual Estimates of the Resident Population by Sex, Single Year of Age, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2017. [Online Database]. 12 June 2018. Accessed 18 August 2018.