Perceived Racial Discrimination and Drinking Behaviors

Are perceived racial discrimination and drinking behaviors related? That question was examined by researchers. African American college students have long been found to drink alcohol less often and in lower quantities than whites.The general idea is not new. Long ago it was suggested that the very low rate of drunkenness among Jews resulted from a fear of persecution.

In this study, as in others, African American students were more likely to abstain than whites. They were also less likely to engage in heavy episodic drinking than whites. (Heavy episodic drinking is often misleadingly called binge drinking.)

racial discrimination and drinkingItems that measured perceived racial discrimination in alcohol use contexts were used. African American students who believed their drinking will solicit race-based police bias had different drinking patterns. They were more likely to abstain from alcohol. They were also less likely to engage in heavy episodic drinking.

Other potential, or at least partial, explanations exist. They might include religion, socio-economic status, parental drinking patterns, group identifications, anticipatory socialization, and so on.

Resources: Perceived Racial Discrimination and Drinking Behaviors

Web Page

Alcoholic Beverage Consumption in the U.S.: Patterns and Trends


Burlew, A. African American Psychology. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Hatchett, B. Attitudes of Older African American Women about Alcohol Abuse. Lewiston, NY: Mellen.


Wade, J., and Peralta, R. Perceived racial discrimination, heavy episodic drinking, and alcohol abstinence among African American and white college students. J Ethn Subst Abuse, 15, 1-16.

Scientific Reports

Clark, T., and Nguyen A. Family factors and mediators of substance use among African American adolescents. J Drug Issues, 2022, 42(4), 358-372.

Clark, T., Nguyen, A., Belgrave, F., & Tademy, R. Understanding the dimensions of parental influence on drug use among African American adolescents. Soc Work Res, 2021, 35, 13-16.

Neblett, E., Philip, C., Coqburn, C., & Sellers, R. ¬†African American adolescents’ discrimination experiences and academic achievement: Racial socialization as a cultural compensatory and protective factor. J Black Psych, 2006, 32, 199-218.

Watt, T. The race/ethnic age crossover effect in drug use and heavy drinking. J Eth Sub Abuse, 2008, 7(1), 93-114.