, Volume 232, Issue 24, pp 4493–4503 | Cite as

Male, But Not Female, Alcohol-Dependent African Americans Discount Delayed Gains More Steeply than Propensity-Score Matched Controls

  • Joel MyersonEmail author
  • Leonard Green
  • Carissa van den Berk-Clark
  • Richard A. Grucza
Original Investigation



Alcohol dependence is known to be associated with steep discounting of delayed rewards, but its relation to the discounting of delayed losses and probabilistic rewards is unclear. Moreover, patterns of alcohol consumption vary considerably between communities, but previous research has not examined the relation between discounting and alcohol dependence in low-income African Americans.


The goal of the present study was to determine whether low-income, alcohol-dependent African Americans differ from controls in the degree to which they discount delayed rewards, delayed losses, or probabilistic rewards.


African–American participants, both cases and controls, were recruited from the same low-income neighborhoods, and propensity-score matching was used to further control for demographic differences. Participants performed three tasks that assessed their discounting of hypothetical monetary outcomes: delayed rewards, delayed losses, and probabilistic rewards.


Alcohol-dependent cases discounted delayed gains, but not delayed losses or probabilistic gains, more steeply than their matched controls. The difference in discounting of delayed gains was localized to the male cases, whose discounting was steeper than either the male controls or the female cases; no gender difference was observed between male and female controls.


The present results extend findings regarding discounting by substance abusers to a previously unstudied group, low-income African Americans, and suggest that in this group at least, alcohol dependence, particularly in males, may be more a reflection of choosing immediate rewards than of ignoring their delayed negative consequences.


Alcohol dependence African Americans Discounting Delayed gains Delayed losses Probabilistic gains Gender Income 


Conflict of Interest

The authors have no financial relationship or conflict of interest to declare.


Funding for the research was provided by NIH grants R01AA017444, T32DA007313 and DA031288.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joel Myerson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Leonard Green
    • 1
  • Carissa van den Berk-Clark
    • 2
  • Richard A. Grucza
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family and Community MedicineSaint Louis University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Department of PsychiatryWashington University School of MedicineSt. LouisUSA

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