Drunkest city ranking may be distorted

Jordan Smith Editor-in-Chief


 Brookings was ranked the fifth-drunkest city in America by an article published by Bustle.com, and the article is now circulating around Facebook and other social media outlets.

According to a Metropolitan or Micropolitan Statistical Area study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11.8 percent of the Brookings population is classified by the CDC as heavy drinkers. Heavy drinkers are defined as adult men having more than two drinks per day and adult women having more than one drink per day.

Another CDC MMSA study on binge drinking found that Brookings boasts a 23.7 percent population of binge drinkers. Binge drinking is defined as males having five or more drinks on one occasion, females having four or more drinks on one occasion.

“I think the drinking rate is so high [in Brookings] because the bar scene is all on a three-block strip and it’s relatively close to all the college housing,” said junior exercise science major Jerrica Huber.

The population of college students in Brookings also may have something to do with the city ranking so high on both the CDC studies and the Bustle.com list, compared to other cities said a bartender in Brookings.

The city of Brookings is classified by the Centers for Disease Control as a micropolitan area – a group of counties that contain at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 inhabitants.

In the city of Brookings, there are seven types of liquor licenses. There is only one off-sale liquor licenses – the Brookings Municipal Liquor Store. 


 There are 20 businesses with on-sale liquor licenses, one restaurant on-sale liquor license, 14 malt off-sale licenses, 33 malt on-off sale licenses, three off-sale malt and farm wine, and 18 wine on-off sale licenses. Some businesses have more than one type of liquor license. An off-sale liquor license allows customers to purchase liquor and take it with them, on-sale allows for customers to drink alcohol on site.

In order to rank the top ten drunkest cities, the percentage of binge drinkers and heavy drinkers from the CDC studies were added – giving Brookings a total of 35.5 percent combined binge and heavy drinkers. In the Bustle article, each city on the 10 drunkest American cities list has a combined heavy and binge-drinking rate of over 33 percent. Brookings placed behind Fargo, ND, Columbus, NE, Missoula, MT, and Fort Collins, Co.

While the list takes data from two CDC studies, it may not be a true representation of the drunkest cities in the nation.

The list may not accurately reflect the statistics of each study. One group is classified as heavy drinkers and classified one group as binge drinkers, but there could be population intersect – one person could belong to both groups, according to assistant professor Yungpen Pan. 

“You cannot add the numbers straight across unless you are certain there is no overlap,” Pan said. “You must quantify what percentage of people have both labels.”

Pan added that this overlap also could vary location to location, so there is really no way to just go in and add the numbers and come up with the correct data for each city. 

Pan said, “It is an apples to oranges comparison.”