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Differences in the measured alcohol content of drinks between black, white and Hispanic men and women in a US national sample


William C. Kerr, Alcohol Research Group, 6475 Christie Avenue, Suite 400, Emeryville, CA 94608, USA. E-mail:


Aims  To measure and describe drink alcohol content differences between Hispanic, non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black men and women in the United States.

Design  A telephone survey re-interview of 397 respondents who participated originally in the 2005 National Alcohol Survey, of whom 306 provided complete information on home drinks.

Setting  United States.

Participants  Adults aged 18 years and older from across the United States.

Measurements  Direct measurement by respondents of simulated drink pours in respondents' own glassware using a provided beaker and reported beverage brands were used to calculate drink alcohol content.

Findings  Black men were found to have the largest overall mean drink alcohol content at 0.79 oz (23 ml) of alcohol. This was significantly larger than the mean for white men or for black women and added 30% to black men's monthly alcohol intake when applied to their reported number of drinks. Spirits drinks were found to be particularly large for men. Multivariate models indicated that drink alcohol content differences are attributable more to income and family structure differences than to unmeasured cultural factors tied to race or ethnicity per se. Models predicting alcohol-related consequences and dependence indicate that adjusting drink alcohol content improves model fit and reduces differences between race/ethnicity defined groups.

Conclusions  Differences in drink alcohol content by gender, race/ethnicity and beverage type choice should be considered in comparisons of drinking patterns and alcohol-related outcomes. Observed differences can be explained partially by measured characteristics regarding family structure and income.