Spurred in part by the powerful anti-drunk driving movement, by the late 1980s all 50 US states had set their legal drinking age at 21.
This is controversial. Why should legal adults—considered mature enough to join the army, get married, serve on a jury, or buy cigarettes (in most US states)—be denied this legal substance?
Critics argue that age restrictions are remarkably easy to bypass, yet at the same time encourage a dangerous binge-drinking culture. Wouldn’t it be better for teens to learn to drink responsibly at home, rather than at frat parties?
Plenty disagree. But at any rate, Americans are in a small minority when it comes to drinking age.
According to a survey of 190 countries, only 11 other nations—including such bastions of human rights as Mongolia, Iraq and Oman, have a minimum drinking age of 21. Most—61 percent—have a minimum drinking age of 18. No other country in the developed world makes kids wait until they’re 21 to drink legally.
Has the US reaped any tangible benefit from this form of exceptionalism?
This map, from ProCon.org, highlights the divide: