People who consume alcohol earn significantly more at their jobs than non-drinkers, according to a US study published Thursday that highlighted "social capital" gained from drinking.
The study published in the Journal of Labor Research concluded that drinkers earn 10 to 14 percent more than teetotallers, and that men who drink socially bring home an additional seven percent in pay.
"Social drinking builds social capital," said Edward Stringham, an economics professor at San Jose State University and co-author of the study with fellow researcher Bethany Peters.
"Social drinkers are out networking, building relationships, and adding contacts to their BlackBerries that result in bigger paycheques."
The authors acknowledged their study, funded by the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, contradicted research released in 2000 by the Harvard School of Public Health.
"We created our hypothesis through casual observation and examination of scholarly accounts," the authors said.
"Drinkers typically tend to be more social than abstainers."
The researchers said their empirical survey backed up the theory, and said the most likely explanation is that drinkers have a wider range of social contacts that help provide better job and business opportunities.
"Drinkers may be able to socialize more with clients and co-workers, giving drinkers an advantage in important relationships," the researchers said.
"Drinking may also provide individuals with opportunities to learn people, business, and social skills."
They also said these conclusions provide arguments against policies aimed at curbing alcohol use on university campuses and public venues.
"Not only do anti-alcohol policies reduce drinkers' fun, but they may also decrease earnings," the study said.
"One of the unintended consequences of alcohol restrictions is that they push drinking into private settings. This occurred during the Alcohol Prohibition of 1920-1933 and is happening on college campuses today. By preventing people from drinking in public, anti-alcohol policies eliminate one of the most important aspects of drinking: increased social capital."
The researchers found some differences in the economic effects of drinking among men and women. They concluded that men who drink earn 10 percent more than abstainers and women drinkers earn 14 percent more than non-drinkers.
However, unlike men, who get a seven percent income boost from drinking in bars, women who frequent bars at least once per month do not show higher earnings than women drinkers who do not visit bars.
"Perhaps women increase social capital apart from drinking in bars," the researchers said in an effort to explain the gender gap.