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Editor's Note: Below is an excerpt from a new Demography Unplugged research note written by Demography analyst Neil Howe. Click here learn more and get a special deal.

Sober Curious? Millennials Aren't The Only Ones Cutting Back On Booze - zba

While Millennials have gotten the most attention for being “sober curious,” drinkers of all ages are cutting back. The share of Americans who say that they’re drinking less than they were five years ago is roughly 40% across all age groups, with most saying it’s because they want to live healthier. (Morning Consult)

We've already covered the news that Millennials (and Homelander teens) are drinking less alcohol than people their age used to drink. This is true whether we look at the share of people who drink at all, at the share of people who are "binge" (i.e., problem) drinkers, or at total per-capita alcohol consumed. (See "Trendspotting: 4/15/19.") We've also written about the rising youthful "sober curious" movement. (See "Trendspotting: 6/24/19.")

    But this update is both confused and confusing. IMO, the author needs some help in understanding the difference between a phase-of-life effect and a cohort effect. What's the phase-of-life effect with alcohol? Well, it's that young adults drink more on average than adults in older age brackets. What's the cohort effect? It's that Millennials are drinking less for their age than recent earlier generations. And that Boomers and early-wave Xers are drinking more for their age than recent earlier generations.

      So just because adults in every age bracket over age 30 say that they're drinking less than they used to does not mean that all generations are contributing to lower alcohol consumption. That's just a phase of life effect. Boomers may be drinking less than they used to (and that was a lot!), but they are still drinking moreover age 60 than the Silent or G.I. Generations drank over age 60. So it's fair to say that their cohort (or "generational") impact on total U.S. per-capita alcohol consumption has been positive, not negative.

        Ditto for this author's discovery that lots of seniors drink alcohol-free beer and wine. Seniors have always been prime consumers of such lite fare. What's novel is the widespread attraction young adults feel for such fare. That's something we haven't seen before. That's the generational "news."

        Sober Curious? Millennials Aren't The Only Ones Cutting Back On Booze - z Aug 19 chart7