CASA Crapola

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Rebecca Goldin of the invaluable bullshit-detecting outfit STATS has a great deconstruction of the most recent crapola study emanating from the hallowed halls of CASA, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse that's housed at Columbia University (and is to solid, factual research what the Columbia's legendarily losing football teams of the '80s were to that sport). CASA recently got headlines by suggesting, in Goldin's summary, "that almost half of the industry's revenue (almost 50 million dollars per year) results from abusive and dependent drinking, and minors consuming alcohol."

Goldin downs a shot and then lays into the CASA numerology:

Here are a few numbers that don't make sense: according to their estimate, over 20 billion drinks are consumed by underage drinkers. STATS was unable to reconstruct this number. According to their own analysis, 47.1 percent of kids age 12-20 are "drinkers", that is, they consume at least one drink per month. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, there are 35.8 million people in the United States in this age range; of these, just under 17 million drank in the past month. The average number of drinks/month, according to the data given in this article, is 35.2 per person per month–or about 422 per year. This amounts to about 422 times 17 million, or just under 7.2 billion drinks per year, far from the 20 billion reported in their table, and used for their analysis. For these same kids to consume 20 billion drinks, each teen would have to consume over 1,000 drinks per year, or almost three drinks a day!

That's only part of the problem with CASA's work. For more Foster Brooks-inspired math, go here.

And for various Reason takedowns of previous CASA studies, go here and here and here.

NEXT: Vouching for Newark

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  1. It doesn’t matter how thoroughly debunked such statistics are. They’ll still be quoted by finger-wagging busybodies and politicians when they want neo-prohibition style legislation.

    Actually , I think that even if someone were to present more realistic numbers to counter their claims, it wouldn’t matter to such people unless the number was zero(drinks consumed by minors). For them, any number above zero is a sign that we need tougher laws.

  2. But it’s for the children! Figurative speech rules. Hey CASA, the kids are not as think as you drunk they are.

  3. There is a lesson to be learned from the 400,000 smoking related deaths crapola figure. It was debunked and it still worked.

    They will keep doing this, they will charge you with splitting hairs over 13 billion drinks, which is absurd on its face, and they will win in the court of public opinion.

  4. Numbers? We don’t need no stinkin’ numbers!

  5. Reminds me of the famous “Reader’s Digest” list of discipline problems schools had in 1935 or 45 or 55 as compared to problems they experienced in 1980. Someone later demonstrated that the first list was composed specifically for the 1980 article and based on the memories of a few retired teachers, while the later list was compiled from actual discipline reports in the NYC schools. (I’m not by the way arguing that there weren’t problems in 1980, only that there was an annoying and incorrect list circulating to demonstrate How Awful Modern Kids Are.)

  6. Modern kids are terrible. I should know, I’m a 35 year old one.

  7. I’m not as st…………………..uh….what was I saying?

  8. 47% of all statistics are made up. Everybody knows that.

  9. Aside from the fact that this is the same CASA that told us a few years back that peopl under 21 consumed 25% of all liquor, only to have their numbers cut in half by every other group that engages in less exagerrated hysteria about drinking under 21.

    I only breezed through the coverage of this “new” “study” (it’s neither new nor a study) because I just knew what was going to be said and I after re-reading it a little slower, I was right.

    I do like the lack of perspective or balance to the statement in some of articles that 96% of people who have alcohol problems later in life started drinking before 21.

    In the (at least partially) discredited 2002 study, CASA claimed that as much as 87% of people started drinking before 21. So 87% of people might be responsible for 96% of the problem.

    But, even the 87% number is suspect if you listen to MADD and others. They claim that the average age where a person takes their first drink is “just 13 years old”. I don’t know if they’re talking about mean, median, or mode average. Using mean averaging, it would take nine 12 year olds to balance out every 21 year old. So, the number of people who started at 21 would be a minimum of 90% and probably approach 100%.

    More baseless hysteria from a lying grant whore.

  10. Have some CASA, CASAcrapola
    Stats that are totally bogus
    From the CASA, CASAcrapola
    Lying ’bout booze is their passion
    ‘Cause of CASA they got real drunk…

    Thanks, I’ll be here all week.

  11. They claim that the average age where a person takes their first drink is “just 13 years old”.

    This crap just makes my blood boil. We Americans are so devoted to our moralistic, prudish hysteria that it blinds us to the fact that it produces results that are the exact opposite of what we desire. Every kid that dies from drunk driving or choking on their own sick should be laid at the feet of these assholes–not just MADD, but most politicians, church leaders and pretty much anyone who subscribes to the idiotic theory that kids must be kept ignorant of alcohol (and drugs, and sex, and…).

  12. It is an act of genuine retardation to lump together an age range of pre-teen to post-adult (12-20). To the extent that this work has any use whatsoever the point would be much better made trying to dissemble into narrower age bands. But since there is no political hay to be made crying about 20.5 year-olds drinking we get this bullshit.

  13. They claim that the average age where a person takes their first drink is “just 13 years old”.

    I was fourteen. But I was something of a late bloomer.

  14. In the sports world you have ready access to statistics on every player. You can quickly find out what percentage of the time Joe Shortstop hit safe while batting left-handed during a full moon.

    Too bad there isn’t an equivalent database for pundits.

  15. I worked in the field 10 years ago, and Califano was well known to the insiders as someone with more political sense than common sense.

    What a windbag!

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