Binge-drinking rates among high-risk drinkers-students who are
Caucasian, male and underage-are significantly lower on college
campuses with larger proportions of minority, female and older
students, according to a recent study by Harvard researchers.
The study showed that greater diversity on campus might
significantly decrease the chance that incoming freshmen become
binge drinkers. The study defines binge drinking as five or more
drinks in a row sometime in the last two weeks for males and four
or more for women.
“I wouldn’t say there was a difference when it comes to race and
drinking,” said Nathan Castillo a Chicano senior psychology major
at CSU. “College kids going out are going to drink, regardless of
Incoming Caucasian freshmen, including those who binge drank in
high school, were less likely to start binge drinking in college if
their university had higher proportions of African-American,
Latino, Asian and older students, according to the study.
“The results may shed light on why fraternities, sororities and
freshman dorms have particularly high binge-drinking rates and
account for a disproportionate share of alcohol problems on
campuses,” said Henry Wechsler, the principal investigator of the
study and director of College Alcohol Studies at the Harvard School
of Public Health, in an article released with the study. “These
social and living arrangements tend to group higher-risk drinkers
together, with little chance of their intermingling with those who
drink less heavily.”
The study used data from 52,312 college students at 114
predominantly Caucasian colleges from the 1993,1997,1999 and 2001
College Alcohol Study.
“Research has shown that young, white males are the most at-risk
population for binge drinking problems,” said Pam McCracken,
director of University Health Services. “It’s a combination of
several factors, including being away from home and media
involvement. These kids think this kind of behavior is a rite of
passage, something that’s expected of them.”
CSU minority enrollment, excluding international students, is
about 12 percent of the total student population. For
undergraduates, the Fall 2003 enrollment numbers break down this
way: 14,075 Caucasian students, 1,090 Latino students, 421 Asian
American students, 338 African American students and 203 Native
“It’s hard to believe that race has anything to do with it,”
said Arthur Garcia, a Mexican-American business senior. “Lots of
students drink, regardless of race.”
McCracken, who is familiar with the new Harvard study, said the
definition of binge drinking in the study was problematic.
“What does five drinks in a row mean? Five shots one after the
other or five beers in five hours?” McCracken asked. She said
although CSU does have problems related to alcohol, she felt the
majority of CSU students were moderate and responsible
The five-drink measurement is common in alcohol studies across
the country, according to the study.
“Five or more drinks as measurement of problem drinking is
questionable to me,” Castillo said.
Garcia and Castillo said there are some small differences in the
way different races party.
“Personally, what I’ve noticed is that when I go to parties that
are predominantly white it’s just a lot of people standing around
drinking beer from kegs,” Castillo said. Parties that are mostly
minorities have more things going on such as dancing, he said.
Andrew Johnson, a business administration sophomore, is a
resident assistant at Corbett Hall. He said binge drinking is a
problem in his residence hall among young Caucasian males.
“Some people go out every night of the week, and it’s not hard
for people who wouldn’t usually drink to get roped in to it,”