Why the US drinking age is 21

  • Опубліковано 23 сер 2019
  • 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 UAplus 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 22 дні тому +328

    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 19 днів тому

      second lol

    • Max Sugerman
      Max Sugerman 20 днів тому +1

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

  • unoriginal username
    unoriginal username 2 години тому

    I'm watching this tipsy XD

  • unoriginal username
    unoriginal username 2 години тому

    I'm watching this tipsy XD

  • I have wasted my life
    I have wasted my life 4 години тому

    Thanks FLORIDA

  • 3506Dodge
    3506Dodge 8 годин тому

    This isn't strictly true. You must be 21 to make a retail purchase of alcohol, but you can possess, consume, receive, sell, and serve alcohol at various ages in various states.

  • Kieran Jaymes
    Kieran Jaymes 17 годин тому

    hmm.. wonder why they havent done that with the age of consent? it varies from state to state....

  • chingchonglink
    chingchonglink 18 годин тому

    americans we banned diner surprise since kids were choking
    also america we let kids buy guns

  • Dani3po
    Dani3po 18 годин тому

    If amendments are added to the U.S.A. constitution often, why the second one is so untouchable?

  • MrCouchmen
    MrCouchmen 19 годин тому

    Why the US drinking age is 21? Rooted results prohibition from 20s and 30s.Maybe?
    (European explanation )

  • Robert Vincent
    Robert Vincent 22 години тому

    Why is Michael Jackson even in this video?

  • Robert Vincent
    Robert Vincent 22 години тому +3

    The USA have so rapidly become one of the most pitiable and ridiculous countries from once being an example for the rest of the world

  • No co
    No co День тому

    Because of the choice of music, I kept expecting Stranger Things title-screen to pop up

  • Max Sterling
    Max Sterling День тому

    Drinking age in Ontario is 19 and in Quebec is 18, all the 18+ year old going to college in cities bordering Canada drive their to drink legally.

  • Tobias Schächtele
    Tobias Schächtele День тому

    You used Sharpiegate and turned it into something creative I see :D

  • Alejandro Sudiro
    Alejandro Sudiro День тому

    If you’re still complaining, the rule can be reversed. Drinking age at 18 and driving at 21. Still maintaining DUI level.


    But you can buy an AR15 at like 12

  • steward joey
    steward joey 2 дні тому

    21 or 18 poison is a poison

  • David Perry
    David Perry 2 дні тому

    The drinking age in Germany is 16 for beer and wine, and 18 for liquor.

  • Crysco
    Crysco 2 дні тому

    Too much disrespect on MJ man. What ever you believe is YOUR opinion.

  • Newty Boy
    Newty Boy 2 дні тому

    *gets alcohol ad before video*

  • Muhammad Ilham Jamaludin
    Muhammad Ilham Jamaludin 2 дні тому

    Michael Jackson has literally nothing to do with the problem or solution. You can still get the whole point of the video if it doesn't include Michael Jackson at all.

  • sarah chickie
    sarah chickie 2 дні тому

    i wrote an essay about this last year

  • Iahi Ghusak
    Iahi Ghusak 2 дні тому

    I'll save you about 10 minutes: The Federal Government threatened to withhold funds for roads if states did not change their drinking laws to 21+. Louisiana was the last hold out, but the federal purse strings were too important, and they eventually caved, making us a 21+ drinking nation. There. Now you have 9:15 to do other stuff.

  • domukaz
    domukaz 2 дні тому

    lol at Vox biting one of Jon Bois's favorite public-domain background tunes

  • Patryk Estevez
    Patryk Estevez 2 дні тому

    In Germany u can buy bottles of wine and beer at 16^^

  • Hrnn Pgtt
    Hrnn Pgtt 2 дні тому

    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 2 дні тому


  • Christen Cummings
    Christen Cummings 3 дні тому

    I had a Modelo ad for this video 😂😂😂

  • Andre Zou
    Andre Zou 3 дні тому

    "...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 3 дні тому

    Yet another reason to hate Reagan

  • William Blair
    William Blair 3 дні тому +5

    What's the difference between 21 and 21+?

    • DeadshotS 4444
      DeadshotS 4444 2 дні тому

      William Blair it’s probably not state wide ? Like some cities can have 21 some 23 some 25 most likely but don’t quote me on that I am probably wrong, just a thought

  • Mytex
    Mytex 3 дні тому

    Love the legal beer at 16 in Germany

  • Ire96
    Ire96 3 дні тому

    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 3 дні тому

    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 3 дні тому +1

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

  • Abba the Dane
    Abba the Dane 3 дні тому

    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 3 дні тому

    Thank you, this is dope.

  • No Name
    No Name 3 дні тому

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

  • Miguel Aguilar
    Miguel Aguilar 3 дні тому +5

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

  • Lexi Washington
    Lexi Washington 4 дні тому

    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 4 дні тому

    lol 'merica

  • Sam Para
    Sam Para 4 дні тому

    America is and always was a mess - a failed experiment

  • Mr. Clean
    Mr. Clean 4 дні тому +1

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

  • Alvin Barrios
    Alvin Barrios 4 дні тому

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

    • Alexander Weschler
      Alexander Weschler 3 дні тому

      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 4 дні тому

    Should have risen the driving age not the drinking age hehe

  • Laniiyah Scott
    Laniiyah Scott 4 дні тому +2

    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 4 дні тому

    It should be 26.

  • Pornald Trump
    Pornald Trump 4 дні тому

    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 4 дні тому

    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 4 дні тому

    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 4 дні тому

    You guys make the best videos!

  • 1966human
    1966human 4 дні тому

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

  • [deleted]
    [deleted] 4 дні тому

    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 4 дні тому

    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 4 дні тому

    Should have implemented a public transit system

  • Max Headshot
    Max Headshot 4 дні тому

    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 4 дні тому

    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 4 дні тому

    Tobacco and alcohol are just legal drug

    • Maximus Dell'Aquila
      Maximus Dell'Aquila 3 дні тому

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

  • marcos galarza
    marcos galarza 5 днів тому

    Love it! Please continue

  • eileen hathwaite
    eileen hathwaite 5 днів тому

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

  • briantravelman
    briantravelman 5 днів тому +4

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

  • Paul Kojack
    Paul Kojack 5 днів тому +2

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

    • Alexander Weschler
      Alexander Weschler 3 дні тому

      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 5 днів тому

    Love the synthwave music

  • jason200912
    jason200912 5 днів тому

    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
    my_shoes_are_ purple 5 днів тому

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

  • brockbaby
    brockbaby 5 днів тому

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

  • Hunter Lane
    Hunter Lane 5 днів тому

    Can I get a HEHE

  • Holger Nestmann
    Holger Nestmann 5 днів тому

    How about draconic penalties when anyone drives intoxicated?

  • Arno Nym
    Arno Nym 6 днів тому

    americans should be 50 to be able to drink alcohol

  • Mark Russell
    Mark Russell 6 днів тому

    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 6 днів тому

    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 5 днів тому

      Mark Russell Reagan was one of the most conservative presidents?

  • Jon Castellino
    Jon Castellino 6 днів тому +4

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

  • BlackBerry
    BlackBerry 6 днів тому


  • Rave
    Rave 6 днів тому

    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 6 днів тому

    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 6 днів тому

    What is the difference between 21 and 21+?

  • Matthew Nagy
    Matthew Nagy 6 днів тому +2

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

  • Samson Kipp
    Samson Kipp 6 днів тому

    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 6 днів тому

    Never heard about that i started drinking since 12

  • Julian Bruck
    Julian Bruck 6 днів тому

    It's a relic of the prohibition/temperance era

  • chriss4365
    chriss4365 7 днів тому

    it should be 30

  • Rochelle Pratt
    Rochelle Pratt 7 днів тому +3

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

  • Stray kids Trash
    Stray kids Trash 7 днів тому

    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

  • Yilan Chen
    Yilan Chen 7 днів тому

    yeah. raise it to 30 yo, more lives would be saved as well.

  • summer babyy
    summer babyy 7 днів тому +3

    Is no one gonna talk about how almost every song in this video sounds like it’s from Stranger Things?

  • tg72201
    tg72201 7 днів тому

    Did Vox hire the guy who does the score for Stranger Things?

  • Jeremy
    Jeremy 7 днів тому

    I'm a proponent of an 18yo drinking age with a 21yo zero tolerance for alcohol and drugs while operating a motor vehicle.

  • Hero of Kush
    Hero of Kush 8 днів тому

    Proud to be Canadian.

  • Zachary Prosser
    Zachary Prosser 8 днів тому +1

    Scary words: I'm from the government and I'm here to help
    Regan's plan : I'm from the government and I'm here to help
    Reagan fails the war on drugs

  • Michael Richardson
    Michael Richardson 8 днів тому

    A 10-minute video explaining something that should take one sentence.

  • S G
    S G 8 днів тому

    Two words.
    Black people.

  • Kevin A
    Kevin A 8 днів тому

    Still don't know why Michael Jackson is in this? lol

  • infamous4141
    infamous4141 8 днів тому

    Because we live in the greatest country in the world

  • Quaid M
    Quaid M 8 днів тому

    Lower that shii

  • S P
    S P 9 днів тому

    Because they are wreckless enough even with a few extra years to mature

    • Dominic Gunderson
      Dominic Gunderson 9 днів тому

      But they can purchase weapons, go into debt, drive, be charged criminally as an adult, and go to war?

  • Kanye North
    Kanye North 9 днів тому

    If you are old enough to Vote and Fight you should also be able to drink.

  • ShotsFired andMissed
    ShotsFired andMissed 9 днів тому

    Drunken action leads to dangerous action

  • Jacob Monnin
    Jacob Monnin 9 днів тому

    . The federal Gov does this all the time. Do this or we won't fund you.

  • Andreas Lindgren
    Andreas Lindgren 9 днів тому

    The legal age should be 85