Legal Drinking Age In The United States


After Prohibition was repealed, each state created laws to control the sale, distribution, and consumption of alcoholic drinks. In addition to the Minimum Legal Drinking Age (MLDA), other alcohol control laws include excise taxes, restrictions on the days and hours of alcohol sales, and server training. Recent studies have evaluated the efficiency of some of these new alcohol prohibitions. Of all the alcohol control programs, the MLDA policy has been the subject of the most investigation. According to Fell (2019), their thorough literature reviews include detailed explanations of several of these studies.


Compared to other countries, there have been considerable differences in the study methodologies used to examine how the MLDA has affected alcohol use, which has led to inconsistent results. According to Fell (2019), studies that used reliable research and analytical techniques often discovered increases in teen drinking when the MLDA was dropped. However, teen drinking decreased when numerous states tightened the MLDA.

Even if a higher MLDA decreased children’s alcohol intake, opponents of the age-21 MLDA contended drinking rates and problems associated with alcohol would rise among adults. In other words, opponents worried that a “rubber band” effect would develop, in which young people would drink more often than if they were allowed to at a younger age to “make up for lost time” and use alcohol at higher rates. This idea is disproved by Hansen and Waddell (2018). Additionally, they discovered that the lower rates of alcohol use linked to a high legal drinking age continued even after teenagers turned 21 using a national probability sample.


The MLDA in the US is 21 years of age. But the legal drinking age varied from state to state before the National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed in 1984. The legal drinking age in the US is 21, but each state has laws governing how it is applied. The following punishments might be imposed on anybody found guilty of trying to get alcohol or possessing it when underage. The goal of this section is to present a thorough list of potential sanctions. This is not a comprehensive list of all disciplinary measures available in each jurisdiction. Still, it guides some potential sanctions for underage drinking in each state.


Fell, J. C. (2019). Approaches for reducing alcohol-impaired driving: Evidence-based legislation, law enforcement strategies, sanctions, and alcohol-control policies. Forensic science review, 31(2).

Hansen, B., & Waddell, G. R. (2018). Legal access to alcohol and criminality. Journal of health economics, 57, 277-289.