Comparative Beer Taxes

[Another beer tax post, yes, but one with interest to everyone in America. No apologies this time.]

It's often useful to see a whole before you try to understand a part. Thanks to data supplied by the Tax Foundation (prost to Jacob Grier), we have a decade of beer taxes. I have dumped these into an Excel spreadsheet, ignored the footnotes (tax data are incredibly byzantine--there are all manner of exceptions and add-ons and funkiness), and have a rough idea of what kind of taxes states actually assess. Given that there's a lot of talk about Oregon's obscenely low taxes, it's worth seeing them in context. Below the fold I'll include a list of all 50 states and DC. But first, here are some interesting facts.
Six Highest
Alaska - $33.17
Alabama - $32.55
Georgia - $31.31
Hawaii - $28.83
S. Carolina - $23.87
N. Carolina - $16.48

Six Lowest
Wyoming - $0.59
Missouri - $1.86
Wisconsin - $1.86
Colorado - $2.48
Pennsylvania - $2.48
Oregon - $2.60

Mean: $8.81
Median: $5.74
In this case, the median is more useful. (The median is the point that divides the group in half. If ten guys are sitting in a bar and they all make $50,000 a year and Bill Gates walks into the room, the mean income skyrockets. The median, more useful in describing the income distribution of the bar, barely budges.) Twenty-one states have beer taxes of five bucks or less per barrel. Only 13 have taxes over $10 a barrel. Only five are above $20, and three above $30 (though one member of that club, Georgia, jumped more than sixteen bucks to $31 in January).

Here's another interesting thing. It appears that there's no correlation between tax rates and per-capita consumption. (I didn't run the numbers, but did apply a few minutes of "visual inspection"--that's high-level statspeak for "eyeballing it.") States vary quite a bit by consumption, from a low in Utah of 13.4 to a high in North Dakota of 32.4. But when you sort them by the beer tax, they all average out, more or less. Have a look at the five quintiles of per-capita consumption sorted by taxes:
22.6 - lowest-taxed quintile
20.0 - second-lowest quintile
21.5 - middle quintile
22.8 - second-highest quintile
22.8 - highest-taxed quintile
21.8 - national average
(For you data geeks, I didn't average the per-capita numbers, but actually went to the state populations, since they obviously vary a lot.) Upshot: taxes don't appear to influence consumption. Hard to say whether that's a pro or con on the beer tax: discusss.

Okay, here are the state-by-state taxes. For fun, I'll include per-capita consumption as well--though the most recent data are just from '07.

Click to view table of state beer taxes...