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Race–gender differences in the impact of history of heavy drinking on current alcohol consumption during the transition to adulthood


American youth transitioning to adulthood consume more alcoholthan in any other period of the life course. This high level of consumptioncan result in serious consequences, including lost productivity, death and disability, sexual assault, and addiction.Nevertheless, relatively little is known, especially by race andgender, about how prior history of heavy drinking (e.g., in lateadolescence) impacts drinking in young adulthood. Utilizing datafrom the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1994-2004) forAfrican Americans, Latinos, and Whites (N = 2,300), we foundthat Whites and Latinos drink more than African Americans,and men report drinking more than women. However, accountingfor a history of heavy drinking introduces considerable variationin current drinking patterns by race–gender status. A historyof heavy drinking more than doubles the number of drinks consumedby African American women, putting their drinkinglevels on par with African American men and White women andraising their level of drinking above Latinas. Further, AfricanAmerican women’s probability of heavy drinking becomes indistinguishable from that of African American men and Whitewomen, once accounting for a prior history of binge drinking. For Latinas with a history of heavy drinking, the probability ofbeing a current binge drinker is equal to Latinos and Whitemen and higher than African Americans and White women.

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