Aims To conduct a systematic review of longitudinal studies that examined the association between childhood socio-economic status (SES) and alcohol use in later life. Methods A systematic search to identify all longitudinal population-based studies that examined the association between childhood SES and later alcohol use. Results Nineteen relevant articles were identified (eight birth cohorts and 11 papers on school-aged cohorts). There was little consistent evidence to support an association between lower childhood SES and later (mis)use of alcohol. Only a minority of studies included assessment of problem alcohol use, and in only one study was the relationship between SES and alcohol use the main research question. Conclusion We found little robust evidence to support the assumption that childhood disadvantage is associated with later alcohol use/abuse. Given the importance of this issue in terms of policy, the lack of evidence is surprising and emphasizes the need for further research in order to inform future policies and public health messages.