Journal of Economic Perspectives

Journal of Economic Perspectives—Volume 25, Number 2—Spring 2011—Pages 133–156II n summer 2008, more than 100 college presidents and other higher education n summer 2008, more than 100 college presidents and other higher education offi cials signed the Amethyst Initiative, which calls for a reexamination of the offi cials signed the Amethyst Initiative, which calls for a reexamination of the minimum legal drinking age in the United States. The current age-21 limit in minimum legal drinking age in the United States. The current age-21 limit in the United States is higher than in Canada (18 or 19, depending on the province), the United States is higher than in Canada (18 or 19, depending on the province), Mexico (18), and most western European countries (typically 16 or 18). A central Mexico (18), and most western European countries (typically 16 or 18). A central argument of the Amethyst Initiative is that the U.S. minimum legal drinking age argument of the Amethyst Initiative is that the U.S. minimum legal drinking age policy results in more dangerous drinking than would occur if the legal drinking policy results in more dangerous drinking than would occur if the legal drinking age were lower. A companion organization called Choose Responsibility—led in age were lower. A companion organization called Choose Responsibility—led in part by Amethyst Initiative founder John McCardell, former Middlebury College part by Amethyst Initiative founder John McCardell, former Middlebury College president—explicitly proposes “a series of changes that will allow 18–20 year-olds president—explicitly proposes “a series of changes that will allow 18–20 year-olds to purchase, possess and consume alcoholic beverages” (see to purchase, possess and consume alcoholic beverages” (see ⟨⟨http://www.choosehttp://www.choose responsibility.org/proposal/responsibility.org/proposal/⟩⟩).).Fueled in part by the high-profi le national media attention garnered by the Fueled in part by the high-profi le national media attention garnered by the Amethyst Initiative and Choose Responsibility, activists and policymakers in several Amethyst Initiative and Choose Responsibility, activists and policymakers in several states, including Kentucky, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Missouri, South Dakota, states, including Kentucky, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Missouri, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Vermont, have put forth various legislative proposals to lower their Minnesota, and Vermont, have put forth various legislative proposals to lower their state’s drinking age from 21 to 18, though no state has adopted a lower minimum state’s drinking age from 21 to 18, though no state has adopted a lower minimum legal drinking age yet.legal drinking age yet.Does the age-21 drinking limit in the United States reduce alcohol consump-Does the age-21 drinking limit in the United States reduce alcohol consump- tion by young adults and its harms, or as the signatories of the Amethyst Initiative tion by young adults and its harms, or as the signatories of the Amethyst InitiativeThe Minimum Legal Drinking Age and Public Health■ ■ Christopher Carpenter is Associate Professor of Economics/Public Policy, Paul Merage School Christopher Carpenter is Associate Professor of Economics/Public Policy, Paul Merage School of Business, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, California. Carlos Dobkin is Associate of Business, University of California at Irvine, Irvine, California. Carlos Dobkin is Associate Professor of Economics, University of California at Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California. Professor of Economics, University of California at Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, California. Both authors are Research Associates, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Both authors are Research Associates, National Bureau of Economic Research,

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