Validation of commercial business lists as a proxy for licensed alcohol outlets

Heather A. Carlos, Dartmouth College
Joy Gabrielli, Dartmouth College
James D. Sargent, Dartmouth College


Background: Studies of retail alcohol outlets are restricted to regions due to lack of U.S. national data. Commercial business lists (BL) offer a possible solution, but no data exists to determine if BLs could serve as an adequate proxy for license data. This paper compares geospatial measures of alcohol outlets derived from a commercial BL with license data for a large US state. Methods: We validated BL data as a measure of off-premise alcohol outlet density and proximity compared to license data for 5528 randomly selected California residential addresses. We calculated three proximity measures (Euclidean distance, road network travel time and distance) and two density measures (kernel density estimation and the count within a 2-mile radius) for each dataset. The data was acquired in 2015 and processed and analyzed in 2015 and 2016. Results: Correlations and reliabilities between density (correlation 0.98; Cronbach's a 0.97-0.99) and proximity (correlations 0.77-0.86; a 0.87-0.92) measures were high. For proximity, BL data matched license in 55-57% of addresses, overstated distance in 19%, and understated in 24-26%. Conclusions: BL data can serve as a reliable proxy for licensed alcohol outlets, thus extending the work that can be performed in studies on associations between retail alcohol outlets and drinking outcomes.