A good number of Americans love to drink. Whether it’s grabbing a six-pack of cheap beer on the way home from work or hitting up a popular happy hour spot with friends, alcohol is a mainstay in the lives of millions. It’s a social lubricant, after all, even if it can help a number of social and health issues arise. Still, America loves to drink. And it doesn’t look like that’s going to change.
But you’ve probably noticed that your favorite liquors, wines, or beers are taxed. Taxed rather heavily. You’re not crazy — most drinks are made significantly more expensive by taxes. That’s the point, though. When things are more expensive, fewer people use them. That’s how soda taxes work. And it’s how alcohol taxes work, too.
All that tax revenue really adds up, too. And our love for alcohol fuels a giant industry. An industry that’s likely much bigger than any of us realize. To put things in perspective, Four Loko (the popular beverage company) did some research to build a graphic and accompanying brief.
“While the culinary and cultural value of these drinks is commonly emphasized, the economic impact is often forgotten,” the Four Loko team said. “In the U.S. alone, the alcohol beverage industry is responsible for sustaining more than 4 million jobs and generating almost $70 billion in annual tax revenue. And that doesn’t scratch the surface of the economic benefits the alcohol industry provides to late night restaurants and pizza shops.”
From Four Loko’s team, here are ten surprising economic stats regarding the American alcohol industry. It’s clearly a lot more than just cheap beer.
1. $69 billion in tax revenue is generated annually
You may have noticed that alcohol is taxed pretty heavily. That’s not just to generate revenue, but to create an incentive. An incentive to get people to drink something else. Still, people are evidently willing to pay the tax. In a given year, up to $69 billion in tax revenue is generated from alcohol sales.
2. The industry supports 4.4 million jobs
The alcohol industry is huge and employs 4.4 million people. That includes people working in the corporate world, the breweries and distilleries, and other nooks and crannies within the industry.
3. The industry’s taxes could fund the entire federal student loan program for four years
All of that tax revenue? The $69 billion cited earlier? There are a lot of things we can do with that money. For example, we could fund the entire federal student loan program for a full four years. That program, running at full-steam for four years, costs approximately $68 billion.
4. We could pay all active military members
We could also pay our entire military. With that $69 billion, the U.S. could cover annual basic pay of all military service members. That includes everyone working or enlisted in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. And probably more.
5. Also, the entire DHS budget
All that money could also pay for the entire budget of the Department of Homeland Security, which is $41.2 billion. But let’s not stop there — you could throw in the National Institute of Health ($32 billion), NASA ($17.5 billion), and the National Science Foundation ($7.4 billion).
6. Alcohol tax revenue > twice all U.S. foreign aid
One more big expenditure that is easily eclipsed by annual alcohol tax revenue? Foreign aid — all foreign aid paid out by the U.S. in a given year. In fact, you could double it. The U.S. doled out $33 billion in foreign aid in 2016.
7. There are more jobs than in all certain states and some countries
We mentioned that the industry employs a lot of people — 4.4 million, to be exact. All told, that’s more jobs than exist in entire states, and even entire countries. The alcohol industry employs more people all on its own than all industries employ in the state of Arizona (3 million total jobs), New Zealand (2.4 million), and Israel (3.6 million).
8. There are more industry jobs than in many other professions combined
America’s lawyers, doctors, police officers, firefighters and agriculture workers combined don’t add up to the 4.4 million employed in the alcohol industry. So, yes. Your affinity for cheap beer is helping the economy.
9. One state leads the world in hop production
The industry needs resources to keep up production, and hops are one of the most important inputs. One state — Washington state — is the world’s leading producer, having just overtaken Germany this year. While not directly in the alcohol industry, the agricultural workers in the Yakima Valley are integral.
10. Beer alone employs 1.75 million people
Out of the overall 4.4 million jobs in the industry, the segment dedicated to beer production employs 1.75 million all on its own. Given the explosive craft beer industry, it’s not much of a surprise. And there’s likely more opportunity to get in as brewing becomes more common on a smaller scale.
For the entire graphic and more information, check out the brief from Four Loko.