Oct 052006
Authors: HEATHER HAWKINS The Rocky Mountain Collegian

Brett Kokes calls himself a “social drinker.”

“Going to the bar relieves tension,” he said, nursing a mug of beer at the Ramskeller on a recent afternoon. “Less stress leads to better working conditions.”

Although the senior zoology major doesn’t have a job, it appears he may be right.

A study published last month by the non-profit Reason Foundation found that men who drink socially earn 10 percent more than non-drinking males.

“Social drinking builds social capital,” said Edward Stringham, the economics professor at San Jose State University who conducted the study, according to the group’s Web site. “Social drinkers are networking, building relationships and adding contacts to their Blackberries that result in bigger paychecks.”

The Reason Foundation, founded in 1968, advocates libertarian principles and the free market. The group also publishes Reason magazine.

“It does actually make sense,” said Lauren Hale, a senior zoology major. “People go out to have a good time and make friends. If they’re out, you kind of assume they have some social skills anyway.”

But not everyone agrees with the study’s findings.

“I don’t think it’s the drinking that’s making them more money, but the socializing, making contacts and building relationships,” said Carrie Haynes, assistant director of the Department of Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Services at Hartshorn Health Service.

But, the report states male drinkers who visit a bar at least once a month bring home another 7 percent more in pay than those who don’t.

“It makes me happy, but I never thought of it that way,” Kokes said about the effect of drinking on his earnings.

Hale said she doesn’t think it’s appropriate for people to drink with their employers, but it’s all right to drink with co-workers.

“If it was an employer that you’re no longer working for it could be OK,” Hale said. “But there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed.”

Still, she said activities that allow professionals to interact on a personal level are better than drinking.

Women who drink socially earn 14 percent more money than women who do not drink alcohol. However, the study shows women do not receive the additional income boost from drinking in bars.

“We’re quick to ban beer at sports stadiums and festivals,” Stringham said in the statement. “The legal blood alcohol level is dropping everywhere, and we’re barraged with over-hyped warnings about binge and underage drinking.

“Instead of fear mongering, we should step back and acknowledge the proven health and economic benefits that come with the responsible use of alcohol.”

But if someone has a predisposition to alcoholism and he or she frequents happy hour, it could be a “slippery slope,” Haynes said. This person could have trouble setting boundaries, causing negative effects on his or her personal and professional life.

“The key is responsible drinking,” Haynes said. “Know your limits and make responsible choices with alcohol.”

Staff writer Heather Hawkins can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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