Why the US drinking age is 21

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Why is the US drinking age 21? And how did it happen? In this episode of Vox Almanac, Vox’s Phil Edwards explores the history of the somewhat unusual way the drinking age became 21.

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After prohibition — the total ban on alcohol — many states established a minimum legal drinking age of 21. But that began to change after the voting age was lowered to 18. Many states followed by lowering their drinking ages, which changed the landscape for the entire country.

By the 1980s, this unusual patchwork of drinking ages started to be seen as a problem, especially by activist organizations like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) and RID (Remove Intoxicated Drivers). They lobbied for a 21-year-old minimum legal drinking age, and President Ronald Reagan supported the cause. His mechanism for enabling a national law? Threatening to withhold Federal Highway funding to states that didn’t comply.

It was an unpredictable strategy for an official typically hesitant to use federal power over the states, and the practice was eventually challenged in the Supreme Court, where it was upheld.

Beyond the political clash, it’s a look at how roads shape policy.

Further reading

Watch President Reagan’s speech about his alcohol policy. The Reagan Library on YouTube has a huge repository of speeches, photo ops, and ephemera related to the Reagan Presidency.
youtube.com/watch?v=nfe-hU6zGS8

Here are the full remarks with Michael Jackson:
youtube.com/watch?v=MgFgTs5N8q8

And another view of that day’s events:
youtube.com/watch?v=VHSf8sIMBM8

Here’s the Center for Disease Control’s review of the minimum legal drinking age’s (MLDA) effects (including the paper cited in this video):
cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/minimum-legal-drinking-age.htm

For a dissenting view, you can read this paper questioning the effectiveness of the MLDA:
nber.org/papers/w13257.pdf

This is the Supreme Court case that affirmed the MLDA law.
oyez.org/cases/1986/86-260

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Andradé
Andradé
23 September 2019

so how was Michael Jackson involved?

Tim Sozial
Tim Sozial
23 September 2019

Cause y'all afraid of fun

prem kenneth
Prem kenneth
23 September 2019

I can drink beer but is the pushy people, abuse, ignorance, arrogance and spoiled individuals will don't care about people the freedom they will make things even harder to accessible things around

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23 September 2019

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The Shadow
The Shadow
23 September 2019

Here on Balkan , you can get vodka at the age of 14

It’s Melon
It’s Melon
23 September 2019

When the sound designers at Vox watch too much Stranger Things

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Pasquale Gelardi
Pasquale Gelardi
23 September 2019

Waste of time. In 1861, people could eat and drink whatever they chose. Even ride horses.

moderatesunited
Moderatesunited
23 September 2019

Blackmail is why it's 21. I saved you 15 minutes. Fed threatened to withhold highway money.

Victor Hugo
Victor Hugo
23 September 2019

Life is the flower for which love is the honey.

rocko44444444
Rocko44444444
22 September 2019

Long story short: instead of making a campaign about drinking responsibly and making good public transportation, they've increased the drinking age. Brilliant, 'murica!

Newcastle utd 1892
Newcastle utd 1892
22 September 2019

Here in the UK we start drinking heavy at 12

Snowy 4
Snowy 4
22 September 2019

I america they drink at 21, in slovakia we think that we'll stop at that age.

Chuck Norris
Chuck Norris
23 September 2019

Chuck Norris fucking haxxored your mom's ass last night.

Vikas Ahuja
Vikas Ahuja
22 September 2019

What did it all have to do with Michael Jackson?

Why the US drinking age is 21 Wiki

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Why may refer to: Causality, a consequential relationship between two events Reason (argument), a premise in support of an argument, for what reason or purpose Why?, one of the Five Ws used in journalism. Vox.com, vox, explain, explainer, almanac, vox almanac, phil edwards, road trip, drinking age, drinking law, 21 and older, 21, alcohol, reagan, mlda, dui, madd, rid, drinking age history, beer, liquor, booze, drinking under the influence, duis, candy lightner, candace lightner, ronald reagan, michael jackson, 80s, supreme court, south dakota v. dole, drinking age debate, drinking age lowered to 18, under age drinking, lower drinking age, legal drinking age,

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