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Toasting St. Patrick, here’s how inflation affected liquor prices


Maybe you plan to drop by the liquor store on Friday night and pick up a bottle of whiskey, for example. Or maybe you’ll go to the grocery store and buy a six-pack, I don’t know, Guinness. Or maybe you live in one of those weird states where you can buy it all in a CVS. Either way, you get the point.

As you pick up the bottle you’re looking for to spend an uneventful, nationality-unrelated evening, you might be wondering: has this also been affected by inflation? And the answer is yes, it is. But the extent of that inflation depends on what you buy and where you bought it.

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The government monitors inflation, as you probably know, including on specific items such as clothing or food. It also tracks alcohol price inflation, both globally and in various forms. There is a consumer price index (CPI) measure for beer consumed at home and another for alcohol consumed elsewhere. If you want to know how the price of alcohol has changed, the government will be happy to tell you.

I have downloaded the CPI data for alcohol in general and beer and spirits in particular so that I can get an idea of ​​the cost increase over past years, in case consuming alcohol on March 17 in particular would be something you would do, which you certainly could not do! There’s no reason to associate March 17 with alcohol consumption, of course. It’s just that I thought I might at this point because the thought suddenly hit me for reasons unrelated to stereotyping a group of people.

For fun, I compared the evolution of consumer prices at the beginning of 2002, 21 years ago. Below is a graph showing how the price of alcohol has changed in each six-month period since then.

You can see periods in which prices have risen faster, including in recent years. The increase in the CPI for alcohol between the second half of 2020 and the second half of 2022 is the largest increase over the same period in the past 40 years.

Note that price changes have not been uniform. In the West, prices rose faster than they did nationally. In the South, prices rose more slowly.

We can break it down separately. Particularly in recent years, the price of alcohol has risen more in the West than in the country as a whole. The northeast saw a larger increase about a decade ago, but that has faded. In the South, meanwhile, the trend has been much slower.

If you are a drinker, then the South is a better place to live – even if your family has deep roots in the Northeast because your ancestors chose to migrate to the United States because of a shortage of a staple food and dispersed from New York to nearby areas where people from your home country already lived. Whatever his country.

Interestingly, the price of beer consumed at home has risen much faster than the price of distilled spirits. Both are up, but beer prices are much higher.

If we compare these increases to the overall consumer price index, you see that alcohol becomes relatively cheaper compared to overall inflation.

So here’s another tip for you if you’re looking for a nightcap: move south, buy hard liquor. This combination has produced much less impact from inflation in recent years.

If you choose to drink beer instead, fine. But I warn you in advance that the government does not specifically track price increases for green dye.


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