Why the US drinking age is 21

  • Am 23 Aug 2019 veröffentlicht
  • 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.
    Help us make more ambitious videos by joining the Vox Video Lab. It brings you closer to our work and gets you exclusive perks, like livestream Q&As with all the Vox creators, a badge that levels up over time, and video extras bringing you closer to our work! Learn more at bit.ly/video-lab
    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 DEclips has a huge repository of speeches, photo ops, and ephemera related to the Reagan Presidency.
    Here are the full remarks with Michael Jackson:
    And another view of that day’s events:
    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):
    For a dissenting view, you can read this paper questioning the effectiveness of the MLDA:
    This is the Supreme Court case that affirmed the MLDA law.
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  • Phil Edwards
    Phil Edwards Vor 19 Tage +306

    Hey, thanks a lot for watching this Road Trip edition of Almanac. You also really shaped it in a ton of ways.
    Watch the rest of the episodes here: bit.ly/2ZzDmkR
    Don't miss them!

    • CJ Londonio
      CJ Londonio Vor 16 Tage

      second lol

    • Max Sugerman
      Max Sugerman Vor 17 Tage +1

      Your stories are so informative and incredibly interesting. Always so well researched and well presented

  • Hrnn Pgtt
    Hrnn Pgtt Vor Stunde

    I thought it had to do with America's imperial system..and did MJ try to get kids drunk before puberty? Is that why it changed to + 21? I'm confused...

  • Tate pilger
    Tate pilger Vor 2 Stunden


  • Christen Cummings
    Christen Cummings Vor 5 Stunden

    I had a Modelo ad for this video 😂😂😂

  • Andre Zou
    Andre Zou Vor 7 Stunden

    "...you have to be 21 in every state to buy alcohol"
    Don't you hate when you are 21 in every other states but not in New York so you can't buy drinks?

    After thinking about it, because of the time zone difference something like that could actually happen :(

  • Mirror16
    Mirror16 Vor 8 Stunden

    Yet another reason to hate Reagan

  • William Blair
    William Blair Vor 9 Stunden +1

    What's the difference between 21 and 21+?

  • Mytex
    Mytex Vor 10 Stunden

    Love the legal beer at 16 in Germany

  • Ire96
    Ire96 Vor 12 Stunden

    What’s 21 going to do? Americans drive at 16! Kids driving! And you wonder why there’s crashes...? Glad to be European

  • TheMrFabian1
    TheMrFabian1 Vor 12 Stunden

    And then there are countries where the legal drinking age for beer, wine - and the age of consent - is 14. Ah, good old Europe!

  • Gabriel Abrahão
    Gabriel Abrahão Vor 16 Stunden

    Hey, where can I get a cool cleanable writeable map like that?

  • Abba the Dane
    Abba the Dane Vor 21 Stunde

    Either the age should be 18 to drink, or the draft and vote age should be 21

  • 1000 subs with no Videos challenge

    Got a beer ad lol

  • Richard Powell
    Richard Powell Vor 22 Stunden

    Thank you, this is dope.

  • No Name
    No Name Vor Tag

    Wait wait wait. "I am from the government and i am here to help" thats 11 not 9 3:32

  • Miguel Aguilar
    Miguel Aguilar Vor Tag +2

    Puerto Rico:
    18 you can drink, but we have the hardest gun laws in the USA.

  • Lexi Washington
    Lexi Washington Vor Tag

    love that i could literally be sent to federal prison and charged as an adult but i can’t even get a mikes hard lemonade

  • Boydy
    Boydy Vor Tag

    lol 'merica

  • Sam Para
    Sam Para Vor Tag

    America is and always was a mess - a failed experiment

  • Mr. Clean
    Mr. Clean Vor Tag

    Almost 90% of Americans that drink, have had a drink before 18, illegally tho

  • Alvin Barrios
    Alvin Barrios Vor Tag

    The character and composure of Reagan is a stark contrast between him and Trump.

    • Alexander Weschler
      Alexander Weschler Vor 15 Stunden

      Idk Reagan is good evidence for those who argue that character and composure are superficial qualities as they relate to the presidency. Definitely more than one kind of character and composure that makes for effective leadership (for better or for worse. Almost always for worse)

  • xaviiiiv
    xaviiiiv Vor Tag

    Should have risen the driving age not the drinking age hehe

  • Laniiyah Scott
    Laniiyah Scott Vor Tag

    Michael Jackson had extremely little to do with changing the drinking age. You never explained in depth as to how. The mention of his allegations were unnecessary as well.

  • nuclearmonster
    nuclearmonster Vor Tag

    It should be 26.

  • Pornald Trump
    Pornald Trump Vor Tag

    Denying an entire class of voters based upon age discrimination, against Federal law, revoking rights based solely upon age. Violating Federal law.

  • DJ Scream
    DJ Scream Vor Tag

    I learned in health class that the part of your brain that tells you right from wrong wouldn’t be fully developed until 21.

  • Scr3amerrr
    Scr3amerrr Vor Tag

    Americans can drive at 16 (I think?) so I feel like its the combination of being new to drink and driving that makes things dangerous. In the UK, most people start drinking at 15-17, however we legally can't drive till we're 17/18 at the YOUNGEST. Cars arent normal to own unless you drive as part of your job, and even then you need a black box & insurance is so high that most people - especially those in cities with good public transport - don't start to drive till they're in their 20s.

  • Kerim Demirkan
    Kerim Demirkan Vor Tag

    You guys make the best videos!

  • 1966human
    1966human Vor Tag

    Very smart, the alcohol limit should be 0% for driving though

  • [deleted]
    [deleted] Vor Tag

    Because Americans mature more slowly than the rest of the world, so a 21 year-old American is at the same level of physical and mental development as a 15 or 16 year-old elsewhere.

  • Salee Sellers
    Salee Sellers Vor Tag

    Funny it never stopped us from drinking under the age of 18 . How did his just say no policy work ? I still don’t understand republicans . If you don’t like the government why run for office ? Their hypocrisy knows no bounds .

  • Dom Wings
    Dom Wings Vor Tag

    Should have implemented a public transit system

  • Max Headshot
    Max Headshot Vor Tag

    From a systematic standpoint those age differences are making no sense, if you are adult by law you are adult with all rights and obligations.

  • Stormbubi
    Stormbubi Vor Tag

    thats just a really nice way to present the basics something like this, very cool, I wish I would see this a bit more often

  • gussh an
    gussh an Vor Tag

    Tobacco and alcohol are just legal drug

    • Maximus Dell'Aquila
      Maximus Dell'Aquila Vor 15 Stunden

      They're legal because the government make millions every year from it.

  • marcos galarza
    marcos galarza Vor 2 Tage

    Love it! Please continue

  • eileen hathwaite
    eileen hathwaite Vor 2 Tage

    Old people shouldnt be allowed to youtube without the help of at least one intern

  • briantravelman
    briantravelman Vor 2 Tage

    So he basically blackmailed the states, and now Americans just go to Mexico to drink

  • Paul Kojack
    Paul Kojack Vor 2 Tage +2

    The real answer is crying mothers. Theyve taken more freedoms from Americans through guilt than any other group.

    • Alexander Weschler
      Alexander Weschler Vor 15 Stunden

      Kind of a callous way to put it, but yeah this is usually how legislation actually gets done in the US. The stats are useless without a down-to-earth emotional appeal and upset moms are among the most effective players in this arena.

  • whitefangv
    whitefangv Vor 2 Tage

    Love the synthwave music

  • jason200912
    jason200912 Vor 2 Tage

    if they want to reduce traffic mortality then increase the driving age to 21 and extend the driving permit length by far more so they can start learning early.

  • my_shoes_are_ purple

    Vox be like: Michael Jackson is why you can’t buy alcohol below the age of 21

  • brockbaby
    brockbaby Vor 2 Tage

    Lets make sure to remember the House of Representatives and Senate both wrote and passed this bill.

  • Hunter Lane
    Hunter Lane Vor 2 Tage

    Can I get a HEHE

  • Holger Nestmann
    Holger Nestmann Vor 3 Tage

    How about draconic penalties when anyone drives intoxicated?

  • Arno Nym
    Arno Nym Vor 3 Tage

    americans should be 50 to be able to drink alcohol

  • Mark Russell
    Mark Russell Vor 3 Tage

    Know why Republicans don't give all these grand design solutions to domestic problems? Because big government ALWAYS makes the problem worse! Always!

  • Mark Russell
    Mark Russell Vor 3 Tage

    Liberal... Prohibition... Liberal... Drinking age.... Liberal..... Federal intervention.... Liberal... Legislation...... Liberal.... Forced Government over State Control.... Liberal.... Liberal .... Liberal... INFLUENCE and Pulling heart strings = how many drunk driving deaths are reduced? NONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Its ok, it's LIBERAL!

    • Sarah_noodle
      Sarah_noodle Vor 2 Tage

      Mark Russell Reagan was one of the most conservative presidents?

  • Jon Castellino
    Jon Castellino Vor 3 Tage +4

    The 80s background music reminds me of Stranger Things, love it

  • BlackBerry
    BlackBerry Vor 3 Tage


  • Rave
    Rave Vor 3 Tage

    very poor vox video. it felt like it was written and directed by 6 different people all with a different topic to cover

  • James Kennedy
    James Kennedy Vor 3 Tage

    I thought this might talk about the debate between experts over whether it is driving that is at the center of American drunk driving deaths or drinking. As a (so far) life long non-driver, I always found it burdensome that I couldn't drink a reasonable amount of alcohol as an 18-21 year old, but that people even younger than me could zoom around in a car. When I started reading more about how some European countries handle this, I felt like my views were confirmed. In the Netherlands, bike paths are known as a place where people can safely drink and er. . . ride. . . The blog "The View from the Cycle Path" had some discussion of bike paths that were designed as the only way to get to certain places, and just tangentially mentioned an example of this at a sports bar, where it's not possible to drive to the bar but is possible to bike to it. I asked the author, David Hembrow, what he thought about this, and he thought that it was actually quite common for Dutch cyclists to be drunk or high or to act like soccer hooligans or any number of other things (which he incidentally did not approve of) but he added that he thought the lack of driver miles, the emphasis on slower speeds, and the infrastructure designed to encourage safety meant that drunk driving wasn't a big problem for the Dutch.

    Personally, as we look to a worsening climate crisis, I'd be in favor of vastly raising the driving age. I am 34 now, and I don't plan on driving any time soon. I think there should be exceptions. Perhaps if you live in a very rural area, or you have a disability, or there is some other extenuating circumstance, a lower driving age should be acceptable. But for most people, I think the age should be like 35 or maybe even 40.

    But I don't think we have much of a state interest in keeping young people from drinking. I think obviously that drinking to excess or drinking and driving are bad, but lots of older people drink and drive and the drinking age does nothing to address this. The real root of the problem is the driving culture of the U.S. You should do a follow up video on that.

  • Cormac Rohda
    Cormac Rohda Vor 3 Tage

    What is the difference between 21 and 21+?

  • Matthew Nagy
    Matthew Nagy Vor 3 Tage +2

    Wow! This Stranger Things Season 4 Trailer was really good!

  • Samson Kipp
    Samson Kipp Vor 3 Tage

    Maybe you should stop letting them drive with 16 and raise it to 18?
    And let them drink with 16 so they know how to deal with alcohol? 🤦🏼‍♂️🤦🏼‍♂️

  • im ACIDD
    im ACIDD Vor 3 Tage

    Never heard about that i started drinking since 12

  • Julian Bruck
    Julian Bruck Vor 4 Tage

    It's a relic of the prohibition/temperance era

  • chriss4365
    chriss4365 Vor 4 Tage

    it should be 30

  • Rochelle Pratt
    Rochelle Pratt Vor 4 Tage +3

    I love and Missed Michael Jackson, Rest dear nice man in Gods arms.

  • Stray kids Trash
    Stray kids Trash Vor 4 Tage

    I think that 21 is too old for a drinking age. In my country the age is 18 but most people drink before then anyway