Effects Of The Drinking Age On Alcohol

Seven studies examined the effect of the legal drinking age on aggregate alcoholic-beverage sales. Effects were mixed—some studies found that alco hol sales were related to the legal age, butfcthers did not find such a relationship. These studies were difficult to interpret because alcohol sales to young drinkers could not be distinguished from sales to older drinkers.

Surveys of the effects on alcohol use among youth of lowering or raising the drinking age have produced conflicting results. Some have found that there was little effect of the legal drinking age on young people's drinking, whereas others have found that lower rates of youth drinking resulted when the legal drinking age was higher (see Wagenaar, 1993, for a review of the fourteen survey studies to date). A major limitation of many of these studies was their use of nonrandom samples of youth from particular high schools, colleges, and local communities rather than samples that were broadly representative of the youth in a state. Surveys of college students, which are usually limited to students in introductory social sciences courses, frequently report finding little effect of the legal drinking age on drinking patterns. In contrast, surveys of random samples of high school seniors and 18- to 20-year-olds across many states, including those entering college and those in the work force, report finding significant reductions in drinking that are associated with higher legal drinking ages

(Maisto & Rachal, 1980; O'Malley & Wagenaar, 1991). It appears, on the basis of the best-designed studies, that raising the legal drinking age results in reductions in young people's drinking. The age-21 policy, however, by no means eliminates this drinking by youth.

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