The Drinking Nations of America

This story made the rounds last week. It is what newspaper men used to call a hardy perennial. Some variation of the theme is done every year. Booze, sex, crime and anything related makes good copy. It lets the lesser critics make broad statements about the implications. I probably heard a dozen people say “Of course they drink in New Hampshire. What else are they going to do?”

The source report is a bit more interesting. The map I like is this one:

Even to an untrained eye there seems to be a pattern, but one that is counter intuitive. The stoic Yankees are heavy boozers, but that can be explained by the Irish. But what about those drunken hillbillies of Appalachia? They appear to be not so drunk after all.

Here’s a cool map[1] from Colin Woodard’s American Nations:

That starts to explain the drinking habits a bit more, doesn’t it? Now, look at this map from the same source:


You’ll note that the light drinking areas tend to have a lot of Native Americans. Despite the image of the drunken Indian, they tend to drink a lot less than the pale faces. Very little hooch is required to get your average Indian drunk. Those stoic Yankees, on the other hand, are mostly British. The Brits are well known boozers.

The central claim of science versus social science, is that people have been and continue to evolve. Isolated from one another, human groups develop traits unique to them and their conditions. They carry these traits with them as they move around. A German in Pennsylvania is going to be more like Germans back home than a Swede living in North Dakota.

That drinking map is one example of why the science is with science and against social science.

This map is why it is very hard to sort nature, from nurture from noise:

Not all Germans are the same. You can do this with just about any country of the civilized world.

[1]I’m linking to the images posted on jayman’s blog.