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Indicator 15: Students' Use of Alcohol and Alcohol-Related Discipline Incidents
(Last Updated: March 2018)

The percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported consuming alcohol on at least 1 day during the previous 30 days decreased from 48 to 33 percent between 1993 and 2015.

This indicator uses data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) to examine the percentage of students who had consumed alcohol during the previous 30 days. The indicator also uses state data from the EDFacts data collection to look at the number of discipline incidents resulting in the removal of a student for at least an entire school day that involved students' possession or use of alcohol on school grounds. Readers should take note of the differing data sources and terminology.

In the 2015 YRBS, students in grades 9–12 were asked if they had consumed alcohol on at least 1 day during the previous 30 days. Until 2011, students were also asked if they had consumed alcohol on school property70 during the previous 30 days. Because this item was dropped from the YRBS after 2011, this indicator primarily discusses students' reports of alcohol consumption anywhere using data up to 2015 and then briefly discusses students' reports of alcohol consumption on school property using data up to 2011.

Between 1993 (the first year of data collection)71 and 2015, the percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported consuming alcohol on at least 1 day during the previous 30 days decreased from 48 to 33 percent (figure 15.1 and table 15.1). There was no measurable difference in the percentage who reported consuming alcohol in 2013 and 2015. In 2015, about 18 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported consuming alcohol on 1 or 2 days during the previous 30 days, 14 percent reported consuming alcohol on 3 to 29 of the previous 30 days, and 1 percent reported consuming alcohol on all of the previous 30 days (table 15.2). The percentage of students who reported consuming alcohol on 3 to 29 of the previous 30 days was lower in 2015 than in 2013 (14 vs. 17 percent).


Figure 15.1. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using alcohol at least 1 day during the previous 30 days, by sex: Selected years, 1993 through 2015

Figure 15.1. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using alcohol at least 1 day during the previous 30 days, by sex: Selected years, 1993 through 2015

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 1993 through 2015.


In every survey year between 1993 and 2001, except in 1995, a higher percentage of males than of females reported consuming alcohol on at least 1 day during the previous 30 days (figure 15.1 and table 15.1). However, in the survey years since 2003, there have been no measurable differences between the percentages of male and female students who reported consuming alcohol on at least 1 of the previous 30 days. Nevertheless, there were differences by sex in the number of days students reported consuming alcohol in 2015. A higher percentage of females than of males reported consuming alcohol on 1 or 2 days (19 vs. 16 percent; figure 15.2 and table 15.2). In contrast, a higher percentage of males than of females reported consuming alcohol on all of the previous 30 days (1 percent vs. less than 1 percent).


Figure 15.2. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using alcohol at least 1 day during the previous 30 days, by number of days and sex: 2015

Figure 15.2. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using alcohol at least 1 day during the previous 30 days, by number of days and sex: 2015

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.
NOTE: Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding.
SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2015.


In 2015, the percentage of students who reported consuming alcohol generally increased with grade level. About 42 percent of 12th-graders reported consuming alcohol on at least 1 day during the previous 30 days (figure 15.3 and table 15.1). This percentage was higher than the percentages for 9th-graders (23 percent) and 10th-graders (29 percent), although it was not measurably different from the percentage for 11th-graders.


Figure 15.3. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using alcohol at least 1 day during the previous 30 days, by grade: 2015

Figure 15.3. Percentage of students in grades 9–12 who reported using alcohol at least 1 day during the previous 30 days, by grade: 2015

SOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Adolescent and School Health, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS), 2015.


The percentage of students who reported consuming alcohol also varied by race/ethnicity. In 2015, higher percentages of American Indian/Alaska Native students (46 percent), students of Two or more races (40 percent), White students (35 percent), and Hispanic students (34 percent) than of Black students (24 percent) and Asian students (13 percent) reported consuming alcohol on at least 1 day during the previous 30 days. The percentage of Asian students who reported consuming alcohol on at least 1 day was also lower than the percentages reported by Pacific Islander students (37 percent) and Black students.

In 2015, the YRBS added a new question to identify students' sexual orientation by asking students in grades 9–12 which of the following best described them—"heterosexual (straight)," "gay or lesbian," "bisexual," or "not sure."72 In 2015, a higher percentage of gay, lesbian, or bisexual students than of heterosexual students reported consuming alcohol on at least 1 day during the previous 30 days (40 vs. 32 percent; table 15.3).

In 2015, state-level data on the percentages of students who reported consuming alcohol were available for 36 states and the District of Columbia (table 15.4). Among these jurisdictions, the percentages of students who reported consuming alcohol on at least 1 day during the previous 30 days ranged from 20 percent in the District of Columbia to 35 percent in Missouri and Arizona.

In 2011 and earlier years, data were also collected on student alcohol consumption on school property during the previous 30 days. In 2011, some 5 percent of students in grades 9–12 reported consuming alcohol on school property on at least 1 day, which was not measurably different from the percentage in 1993 (table 15.1). About 3 percent of students reported using alcohol on school property on 1 or 2 of the previous 30 days in 2011 (table 15.2). One percent of students reported using alcohol on school property on 3 to 29 of the previous 30 days, and less than 1 percent of students reported using alcohol on school property on all of the previous 30 days.

Discipline incidents that result from possession or use of alcohol at school reflect disruptions in the educational process and provide a gauge for the scope of alcohol use at school. As part of the EDFacts data collection, state education agencies report the number of discipline incidents involving students' possession or use of alcohol on school grounds that result in the removal of a student for at least an entire school day. State education agencies compile these data based on incidents that were reported by their schools and school districts.

During the 2014–15 school year, there were 22,500 reported alcohol-related discipline incidents in the United States (table 15.5).73 The number of alcohol-related incidents varies widely across jurisdictions, due in large part to their differing populations. Therefore, the rate of alcohol-related discipline incidents per 100,000 students can provide a more comparable indication of the frequency of these incidents across jurisdictions. During the 2014–15 school year, the rate of alcohol-related discipline incidents was 45 per 100,000 students in the United States.

The majority of jurisdictions had rates between 10 and 100 alcohol-related discipline incidents per 100,000 students during the 2014–15 school year. Two states had rates of alcohol-related discipline incidents per 100,000 students that were below 10: Texas and Wyoming, while six states had rates above 100: Arkansas, Alaska, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, and Colorado.


This indicator repeats information from the Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2016 report, but the text has been revised to include additional breakouts that were previously included in a Spotlight feature. For more information: Tables 15.1, 15.2, 15.3, 15.4, and 15.5, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016a), (http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/2015/ss6506_updated.pdf), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016b), (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/65/ss/pdfs/ss6509.pdf).


70 In the question about drinking alcohol at school, "on school property" was not defined for survey respondents.
71 1991 was the first year of data collection for alcohol consumption anywhere and 1993 was the first year of data collection for alcohol consumption on school property.
72 In this indicator, students who identified as "gay or lesbian" or "bisexual" are discussed together as the "gay, lesbian, or bisexual" group. Although there are likely to be differences among students who identify with each of these orientations, small sample sizes preclude analysis for each of these groups separately. Students were not asked whether they identified as transgender on the YRBS.
73 United States total includes 48 states and the District of Columbia. Data for California and Vermont were unavailable for the 2014–15 school year.