Datadelve

India’s biggest drinkers

Beer and refined liquor consumption rises with class.

Beer and refined liquor consumption rises with class.  

And they’re not from Kerala

As Kerala takes the first steps towards prohibition, here’s a question: is Kerala really India’s biggest drinker? The media sure seems to think so; here’s the Times of India, >saying so today (but giving no source), The Indian Express >said it in 2008 but the source study is nowhere on the internet and the Economist >said so in 2013 citing a Kerala-based advocacy group director. Various other reports cite Kerala’s 2008 Economic Review but this isn’t available online either.



For us, the go-to place for consumption data still is India’s National Sample Survey Office. The NSSO has some well-documented drawbacks, and most likely underestimates consumption at the higher end of the income spectrum. But it’s still the most geographically and economically representative dataset in the country. (All the graphics in this post are by Vivekanandan M.)

The NSSO’s 2011-12 consumption data splits per capita weekly consumption of alcohol into four categories – toddy, country liquor, beer and foreign/ refined liquor or wine. The average rural Indian drinks 220 ml across types of alcohol in a week, or 11.4 litres in a year. Toddy is the most popular drink for rural India followed by country liquor. The average urban Indian, meanwhile, drinks 96 ml per week or 5 litres in a year, country liquor being most popular.



So how do the states compare? The biggest toddy and country liquor-drinking states are Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Arunachal Pradesh and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Small states and Union Territories are most likely to have sampling errors, so let’s look at the bigger states. Andhra Pradesh tops the bigger states, followed by Assam, Jharkhand and Bihar.



The biggest beer, wine and refined/ foreign liquor drinking states and UTs are Daman & Diu, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Puduchery. Next come Goa, Andhra Pradesh and then Kerala and Karnataka tied in third place.

In fact, Andhra Pradesh is by far India’s biggest drinking state, consuming 665 ml per capita per week on average, or nearly 34.5 litres per year, across types of alcohol. Kerala is far behind, at 196 ml per week or just 10.2 litres per year.



Income starkly affects alcohol consumption; in rural areas, toddy and country liquor consumption rises with class and falls only in the richest 5%, while beer and refined liquor rises with class. For urban areas, country liquor consumption falls as people get richer, while beer and refined liquor consumption rises exponentially.

Income similarly starkly affects cigarette and bidi consumption, but overall India is clearly a bidi-smoking country.



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