- a study published by georgia state university claims that uber has contributed to a bigger drinking culture than we already have.
- binge drinking and average drinks per day have gone up in major metro areas, the study claims.
- there's some credibility here, but like any study, don't take every last word.
americans may be drinking more excessively than when uber was just a german adjective. a new study by georgia state university attempts to fill what it calls a "complicated" discussion over the societal benefits of ride sharing. that, and who doesn't love to blame their poor decision-making on a soulless corporation?
the study cites behavioral surveys conducted annually by the centers for disease control and prevention between 2009 and 2016 and correlates them to uber's entry into new york city in 2012 and its expansion to 209 metro areas by the end of 2016. using equations that only statisticians can decipher—and controlling for variables such as time of day, location, and demographics—the authors found that people drank more in areas where uber rides were freely available and less where they weren't. specifically, the cultural shift where we let unlicensed strangers act like taxicabs and drive us anywhere we want to go has led to a 3 percent increase in the average number of drinks we down each day. it leads to 9 percent more binge drinking (five or more drinks in a sitting for men, four or more for women) and anywhere from 17 to 22 percent more binge drinking in areas with "weaker" public transit.
in metro areas where enough respondents in the cdc survey gave answers to questions about their alcohol use in the past 30 days, the louisville authors claim that uber is responsible for people consuming 2.9 million more drinks a month. of these, during an average month, 13,000 more people are binging on booze, the study says.
other studies, as the new york times noted, have linked uber and lyft (which the georgia study didn't take into account, due to its more limited market share, the authors said) with reductions in drunk-driving deaths, accidents, and ambulance rides in major cities. this study tries to show that we're offsetting such gains with increased alcohol use—and thereby exposing ourselves to more societal ills, like risky sex.
"ultimately, our findings imply that the net social impact of ride sharing is more complicated than the existing literature and policy debates suggest," the authors wrote.
in areas where public transit was already accessible and wide-reaching, drinking with the uber app installed didn't make as much of a dent in those areas prior to 2012, the study said.
"in some prior studies, there appear to be reductions in alcohol-related harms, but in others the reductions appear to be negligible," the authors wrote. "uber's effect on alcohol consumption, and the variation in the magnitude as function of existing public transit, may help explain some of the apparent discrepancies."
but their study doesn't appear to use any data from uber itself or correlate changes in alcohol consumption with other major factors (was there a recession somewhere between 2009 and 2016?) and local factors related to each metro area.
like any study, this one makes assumptions that leads to conclusions that may have little or nothing to do with the alleged cause. it's certainly plausible that ride sharing convinces us we can drink more without bigger consequences. it's also a reminder that the technological innovations uber unleashed have more wide-reaching consequences on society—on traffic, public transit, emissions, wages, and on and on—and much of that won't be fully understood for a long time.