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Legal drinking age of 18 tied to high school dropout rate

  1. RoboCodeine7610

    Although there have been calls to lower the legal drinking age from 21, a new study raises the possibility that it could have the unintended effect of boosting the high school dropout rate.

    The report, published in the September issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, looked back at high school dropout rates in the 1970s to mid-80s -- a time when many U.S. states lowered the age at which young people could legally buy alcohol.

    Researchers found that when the minimum drinking age was lowered to 18, high school dropout rates rose by 4 to 13 percent, depending on the data source. Black and Hispanic students -- who were already more vulnerable to dropping out -- appeared more affected than white students.

    The findings do not prove that the 18 drinking age was to blame, according to lead researcher Andrew Plunk, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at Eastern Virginia Medical School, in Norfolk. However, he said, state drinking-age policies would likely be unrelated to the personal factors that put kids at risk of drinking problems or dropping out.

    Plus, Plunk explained, states made those policy changes based on national trends at the time -- mainly, the belief that with the voting age lowered to 18, the legal drinking age should drop, too. So it's unlikely that other events happening within states would explain the connection to high school dropout rates.

    And why would the legal drinking age matter when it comes to high school dropout rates?

    "The minimum legal drinking age changes how easy it is for a young person to get alcohol," Plunk said. "In places where it was lowered to 18, it's likely that more high school students were able to get alcohol from their friends."

    And for certain vulnerable kids, that access might lower their chances of finishing high school. Policies that allowed 18-year-olds to buy alcohol showed a particular impact on minority students, as well as young people whose parents had drinking problems. In that latter group, the dropout rate rose by 40 percent.

    In the mid-1980s, federal legislation returned the legal drinking age to 21 nationwide.

    However, there is an ongoing debate about lowering it again -- largely as a way to combat clandestine binge drinking on college campuses. The argument is that college students who can legally buy alcohol at bars and restaurants will drink more responsibly.

    But Plunk said that debate is missing something: What might the effects be in high schools?

    "I think this study gives us some idea of what could happen if we lower the legal drinking age," Plunk said. "It suggests to me that we'd see this same dropout phenomenon again."

    Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
    ScienceDaily, 28 September 2015


  1. Isodimorphism
    This touches on something I've thought for a long time: the best way to stop children under 18 from drinking might be to raise the legal age to 21.

    Perhaps we should assume that most kids will be able to easily get hold of alcohol 2 or 3 years before they reach the legal drinking age, and set regulations accordingly? 15- and 16-year-olds can often pass for 18, but it's rare for them to pass as 21. People who have no qualms about giving alcohol to someone 2 years below the legal age might be more reluctant to give it to someone 5 years below the drinking age. 16-year-olds might have a good few 18-year-old friends, but they usually don't have many who are 21.

    It will never happen, but I'd be interested to see what would effect it would have on teenage drinking if the legal age were raised to 21 in the UK.

    As an Englishman, I can confirm that being allowed to buy alcohol legally absolutely does not lead to undergraduate students drinking responsibly. Kids who are living away from their parents for the first time and who suddenly have a lot more freedom are always going to respond by consuming their own weight in alcohol 3 times a week. It's part of growing up.
  2. bluenarrative
    "The findings do not prove that the 18 year drinking age was to blame."

    Boy, you can say that again! This is not a "study." I noted on a different thread recently that correlation does NOT equal causation. Apparently, nobody ever explained this basic principle to the authors of this "study."

    This "study" bears no relationship to anything that I would term "science." The methodology behind this piece of (total) junk science is, in fact, identical to the methodology of reading tarot cards.

    Give me a break. Who is publishing this crap???

    How can you have a "study" with NO CONTROLS??? To note correlation means nothing. Only gnostics and astrologers attempt to extract meaning from correlation.
  3. bluenarrative
    The foundational philosophical issue at stake here has nothing to do with how efficacious one particular government policy might be, as opposed to a different government policy, in terms of achieving "good" outcomes.

    The real issue is: why should the government be allowed to micromanage people's lives in order to "engineer" the social order?

    From WHAT SOURCE does a government derive it's authority to regulate when a human being might drink? Why, exactly, should an 18 year old lose the right to drink whatever they want to drink?
    The entire notion of a "drinking age" has been unknown throughout the history of humanity-- it is a VERY recent innovation.

    Throughout most of the English-speaking world, over the course of the last 400 years, or so, the mere suggestion that the government had some sort of authority over an individual's private life would have been raucously howled down by EVERYBODY. This, sadly, began changing in the 20th century.

    The Nazis are now gone. The Stalinists and the Maoists are now gone. But we still have an awful lot of statists in our midst, arrogantly assuming a right to control individuals FOR THEIR OWN GOOD.

    The paternalism and the smug self- righteousness of these people are repugnant to me.
  4. Alien Sex Fiend
    Correct me if Im wrong but didnt legal drinking age appear somewhere around the WW1?
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