Retain age-21 drinking age
All 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and Guam currently prohibit anyone under age 21 from possessing alcoholic beverages; most states also prohibit those under age 21 from purchasing and consuming alcoholic beverages. Under this strategy, campuses and local and state governments support continuation of the age-21 minimum legal drinking age due to its effectiveness in reducing underage drinking consequences.
Effectiveness: = Higher effectiveness
Cost: $ = Lower
Barriers: ## = Moderate
Research Amount: **** = 5 or more longitudinal studies
Public Health Reach: Broad
Staffing Expertise Needed: Policy advocate
Target Population: Underage students
Research Population: General
Effectiveness ratings are based on estimated success in achieving targeted outcomes. Cost ratings are based on a consensus among research team members of the relative program and staff costs for adoption, implementation, and maintenance of a strategy. Actual costs will vary by institution, depending on size, existing programs, and other campus and community factors. Barriers to implementing a strategy include cost and opposition, among other factors. Public health reach refers to the number of students that a strategy affects. Strategies with a broad reach affect all students or a large group of students (e.g., all underage students); strategies with a focused reach affect individuals or small groups of students (e.g., sanctioned students). Research amount/quality refers to the number and design of studies.
DeJong W & Blanchette J. Case closed: Research evidence on the positive public health impact of the age 21 minimum legal drinking age in the United States. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 75(Suppl. 17):108–15, 2014.
Shults RA, Elder RW, Sleet DA, Nichols JL, Alao MO, Carande-Kulis VG, et al. Reviews of evidence regarding interventions to reduce alcohol-impaired driving. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 21(Suppl. 4):66–88, 2001.
- Wagenaar AC & Toomey TL. Effects of minimum drinking age laws: Review and analyses of the literature from 1960 to 2000. Journal of Studies on Alcohol (Suppl. 14):206–25, 2002.
- Recent studies:
Grucza RA, Hipp PR, Norberg KE, Rundell L, Evanoff A, Cavazos-Rehg P, et al. The legacy of minimum legal drinking age law changes: long-term effects on suicide and homicide deaths among women. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 36(2):377–84, 2012.
- Plunk AD, Cavazaos-Rehg P, Bierut LJ, & Grucza RA. The persistent effects of minimum legal drinking age laws on drinking patterns later in life. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37(3):463–69, 2013.
- Subbaraman MS & Kerr WC. State panel estimates of the effects of the minimum legal drinking age on alcohol consumption for 1950 to 2002. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 37(Suppl. 1):E291–96, 2013.
References from 2019 update
- Callaghan, R.C.; Sanches, M.; Gatley, J.M.; and Stockwell, T. Impacts of drinking-age laws on mortality in Canada, 1980–2009. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 138:137–145, 2014.
- Carpenter, C.; and Dobkin, C. The minimum legal drinking age and morbidity in the United States. Review of Economics and Statistics 99(1):95–104, 2017.
- Gatley, J.M.; Sanches, M.; Benny, C.; et al. The impact of drinking age laws on perpetration of sexual assault crimes in Canada, 2009-2013. Journal of Adolescent Health 61(1):24–31, 2017.
- Gruenewald, P.J.; Treno, A.J.; Ponicki, W.R.; et al. Impacts of New Zealand's lowered minimum purchase age on context-specific drinking and related risks. Addiction 110(11):1757–1766, 2015.
- Huckle, T.; and Parker, K. Long-term impact on alcohol-involved crashes of lowering the minimum purchase age in New Zealand. American Journal of Public Health 104(6):1087–1091, 2014.
- Keyes, K.; Brady, J.; and Li, G. Effects of minimum legal drinking age on alcohol and marijuana use: Evidence from toxicological testing data for fatally injured drivers aged 16 to 25 years. Injury Epidemiology 2(1):1, 2015.
- Plunk, A.D.; Agrawal, A.; Tate, W.F.; et al. Did the 18 drinking age promote high school dropout? Implications for current policy. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 76(5):680–689, 2015.
- Yoruk, C.E. The effect of alcohol consumption on labor market outcomes of young adults: Evidence from minimum legal drinking age laws. B E Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy 15(3):1297–1324, 2015.
- Yoruk, C.E.; and Yoruk, B.K. Alcohol consumption and risky sexual behavior among young adults: Evidence from minimum legal drinking age laws. Journal of Population Economics 28(1):133–157, 2015.
- Baccini, M.; and Carreras, G. Analyzing and comparing the association between control policy measures and alcohol consumption in Europe. Substance Use and Misuse 49(12):1684–1691, 2014.
- Callaghan, R.C.; Gatley, J.M.; Sanches, M.; and Asbridge, M. Impacts of the minimum legal drinking age on motor vehicle collisions in Quebec, 2000-2012. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 47(6):788–795, 2014.
- Callaghan, R.C.; Sanches, M.; and Gatley, J.M. Impacts of the minimum legal drinking age legislation on in-patient morbidity in Canada, 1997-2007: A regression-discontinuity approach. Addiction 108(9):1590–1600, 2013.
- Callaghan, R.C.; Sanches, M.; Gatley, J.M.; and Cunningham, J.K. Effects of the minimum legal drinking age on alcohol-related health service use in hospital settings in Ontario: A regression-discontinuity approach. American Journal of Public Health 103(12):2284–2291, 2013.
- Carpenter, C.S.; Dobkin, C.; and Warman, C. The mechanisms of alcohol control. Journal of Human Resources 51(2):328–356, 2016.
- Conover, E.; and Scrimgeour, D. Health consequences of easier access to alcohol: New Zealand evidence. Journal of Health Economics 32(3):570–585, 2013.
- Disney, L.D.; LaVallee, R.A.; and Yi, H.Y. The effect of internal possession laws on underage drinking among high school students: A 12-state analysis. American Journal of Public Health 103(6):1090–1095, 2013.
- Fell, J.C.; Scherer, M.; and Voas, R. The utility of including the strengths of underage drinking laws in determining their effect on outcomes. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 39(8):1528–1537, 2015.
- Fell, J.C.; Scherer, M.; Thomas, S.; and Voas, R.B. Assessing the impact of twenty underage drinking laws. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs 77(2):249–260, 2016.
- Fitzpatrick, B.G.; Scribner, R.; Ackleh, A.S.; et al. Forecasting the effect of the Amethyst Initiative on college drinking. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 36(9):1608–1613, 2012.
- Jager, J.; Keyes, K.M.; and Schulenberg, J.E. Historical variation in young adult binge drinking trajectories and its link to historical variation in social roles and minimum legal drinking age. Developmental Psychology 51(7):962–974, 2015.
- Jiang, H.; Livingston, M.; and Manton, E. The effects of random breath testing and lowering the minimum legal drinking age on traffic fatalities in Australian states. Injury Prevention 21(2):77–83, 2015.
- Krauss, M.J.; Cavazos-Rehg, P.A.; Agrawal, A.; et al. Long-term effects of minimum legal drinking age laws on marijuana and other illicit drug use in adulthood. Drug and Alcohol Dependence 149:173–179, 2015.
- Kypri, K.; Davie, G.; McElduff, P.; et al. Effects of lowering the minimum alcohol purchasing age on weekend assaults resulting in hospitalization in New Zealand. American Journal of Public Health 104(8):1396–1401, 2014.
- Kypri, K.; Davie, G.; McElduff, P.; et al. Effects of lowering the alcohol minimum purchasing age on weekend hospitalised assaults of young Maori in New Zealand. Drug and Alcohol Review 34(3):299–303, 2015.
- Kypri, K.; Davie, G.; McElduff, P.; et al. Long-term effects of lowering the alcohol minimum purchasing age on traffic crash injury rates in New Zealand. Drug and Alcohol Review 36(2):178–185, 2017.
- Lindo, J.M.; Siminski, P.; and Yerokhin, O. Breaking the link between legal access to alcohol and motor vehicle accidents: Evidence from New South Wales. Health Economics 25(7):908–928, 2016.
- Plunk, A.D.; Krauss, M.J.; Syed-Mohammed, H.; et al. The impact of the minimum legal drinking age on alcohol-related chronic disease mortality. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research 40(8):1761–1768, 2016.
- Schelleman-Offermans, K.; Roodbeen, R.T.J.; and Lemmens, P. Increased minimum legal age for the sale of alcohol in the Netherlands as of 2014: The effect on alcohol sellers' compliance after one and two years. International Journal of Drug Policy 49:8–14, 2017.
See related studies in References, which summarize reductions in alcohol use consequences due to the age 21 minimum legal drinking age.