This study investigated sociodemographic disparities in alcohol environments and their relationship with adolescent drinking. Using geocoded and mapped alcohol license data with ArcMap, the authors constructed circular buffers centered at 14,595 households with children that participated in the California Health Interview Survey to calculate commercial sources of alcohol in each buffer. Multivariate logistic regression differentiated the effects of alcohol sales on adolescents' drinking from their individual, family and neighborhood characteristics.
Alcohol availability, measured by mean and median number of licenses, was significantly higher around residences of minority and lower-income families. Binge drinking and driving after drinking among adolescents aged 12 to 17 years were significantly associated with the presence of alcohol retailers within 0.5 miles of home. Simulation of changes in the alcohol environment showed that if alcohol sales were reduced from the mean number of alcohol outlets around the lowest-income quartile of households to that of the highest quartile, prevalence of binge drinking would fall from 6.4 percent to 5.6 percent and driving after drinking from 7.9 percent to 5.9 percent.
The study concluded that alcohol outlets are concentrated in disadvantaged neighborhoods and can contribute to adolescent drinking. To reduce underage drinking, environmental interventions need to curb opportunities for youth to obtain alcohol from commercial sources by tightening licensure, enforcing minimum-age drinking laws, or other measures.