New Study Shows How a Culture’s Traditional Alcoholic Beverage Preference Impacts the Economy


The “ah-ha” moment came during a conversation in London’s SkyBar during a break at a 2015 investment conference.

Zoltan Acs, a Schar School of Policy and Government University Professor and director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Public Policy, and Jönköping International Business School PhD candidate Emma Lappi were discussing the classic stereotypes associated with alcoholic beverages. What else would you discuss at a bar at an economic conference 40 floors over London?

It occurred to them then that some scientific rigor and big data analysis might reveal something interesting as to how entrepreneurial endeavors perform in European countries known for their cocktails. Being academics, they also wanted to answer the “why” question.

“I thought then, ah-ha, we just might have a paper,” Acs said in his office at the Schar School’s Arlington, Va., campus.

What they discovered goes beyond beverage-preference impacts and ventures into the realm of epigenetics, which are inheritable characteristics that do not involve changes in DNA. Epigenetic influences transfer across generations, accounting for deeply entrenched behaviors.

Here’s how Acs, who is an expert in international entrepreneurism, and Lappi summed up how alcohol affect cultures, specifically in Europe:

  • Beer-drinking cultures are generally productive.
  • Wine-drinking cultures are generally unproductive.
  • Spirits-drinking cultures are generally destructive.

In productive beer-consuming economies, Acs and Lippi say, entrepreneurship creates wealth. Unproductive economies merely reshuffle existing investments. Destructive entrepreneurship actually destroys accumulated wealth.

“But the more interesting question was, that if this goes on for generations, why are there no conversions” to different, more positive alcoholic beverages, particularly among destructive cultures, Acs asked. “The role of epigenetics in entrepreneurship needs to be examined. In the end, changing a culture may be harder than it looks.”

As for his own favorite beverages, Acs said he prefers “beer, when I am doing my writing, closely followed by wine, but there is a place for scotch.”

To see the full study, see this link.