Race–ethnicity, gender, heavy drinking, alcohol consumption, young adulthood


American youth transitioning to adulthood consume more alcohol than in any other period of the life course. This high level of consumption can result in serious consequences, including lost productivity, death and disability, sexual assault, and addiction. Nevertheless, relatively little is known, especially by race and gender, about how prior history of heavy drinking (e.g., in late adolescence) impacts drinking in young adulthood. Utilizing data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1994-2004) for African Americans, Latinos, and Whites (N = 2,300), we found that Whites and Latinos drink more than African Americans, and men report drinking more than women. However, accounting for a history of heavy drinking introduces considerable variation in current drinking patterns by race–gender status. A history of heavy drinking more than doubles the number of drinks consumed by African American women, putting their drinking levels on par with African American men and White women and raising their level of drinking above Latinas. Further, African American women's probability of heavy drinking becomes indistinguishable from that of African American men and White women, once accounting for a prior history of binge drinking. For Latinas with a history of heavy drinking, the probability of being a current binge drinker is equal to Latinos and White men and higher than African Americans and White women.

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