We examined the relationship between state-level income inequality and alcohol outcomes and sought to determine whether associations of inequality with alcohol consumption and problems would be more evident with between-race inequality measures than with the Gini coefficient. We also sought to determine whether inequality would be most detrimental for disadvantaged individuals.Methods
Data from 2 nationally representative samples of adults (n = 13 997) from the 2000 and 2005 National Alcohol Surveys were merged with state-level inequality and neighborhood disadvantage indicators from the 2000 US Census. We measured income inequality using the Gini coefficient and between-race poverty ratios (Black-White and Hispanic-White). Multilevel models accounted for clustering of respondents within states.Results
Inequality measured by poverty ratios was positively associated with light and heavy drinking. Associations between poverty ratios and alcohol problems were strongest for Blacks and Hispanics compared with Whites. Household poverty did not moderate associations with income inequality.Conclusions
Poverty ratios were associated with alcohol use and problems, whereas overall income inequality was not. Higher levels of alcohol problems in high-inequality states may be partly due to social context.