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A Look Behind the Numbers

Differences Among Racial/Ethnic Groups

Race/Ethnicity Prevalence
(Ages 12-20)
Population Total Kids with Serious Alcohol Problems
African American 7% 500 boys & girls 35 kids
Hispanic 11% 500 boys & girls 55 kids
Multiracial 14% 500 boys & girls 70 kids
White 14% 500 boys & girls 70 kids

The figures in the shaded area above represent the prevalence of serious alcohol problems among people ages 12-20. The small sample size of people from other races and ethnicities in the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse prevents accurate statistical assessment in categories not included here.

Little research exists comparing among young people in various racial and ethnic groups. However, federal surveys do indicate general patterns of use.

African American Youth

Fewer African American youth drink than white or Hispanic youth. They also begin drinking and using other drugs at later ages.

Asian and Pacific Islander American Youth

Rates of alcohol use are generally lower in this group than in any other racial or ethnic category.

Hispanic American Youth

Hispanic youth use alcohol at rates similar to that of white youth. Hispanic males are more likely to begin drinking at a younger age and to drink more than females.

Native American Youth

Native Americans begin drinking alcohol at younger ages than any other group. They also drink more frequently and in greater amounts than non-Indian youth, and are more likely to use other drugs also. This pattern, established during adolescence, continues into young adulthood.

White Youth

White youth are more likely to use alcohol than any other group except Native Americans.

Source: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. 1994. Treatment for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse: Opportunities for Coordination. Technical Assistance Publication Series 11. US Department of Health and Human Services. Chapter 6: Ethnic & Racial Minority Populations.