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How old are you? This deceptively simple question has a clear answer in the law, which is a number measuring the amount of time that has elapsed since birth. However, as scientists discover various biomarkers of human aging and individuals openly embrace more fluid identities, this chronological definition will soon have to compete with biological and subjective alternatives. Legal scholars have previously examined the role of age in the legal system, but they have done so assuming a chronological definition. This is the first Article to examine critically the antecedent question of how we should define legal age after one has reached adulthood. The stakes for this definition are high. Age is ubiquitous in the legal landscape, appearing in the Constitution, antidiscrimination statutes, criminal laws, and public benefits programs. This Article normatively assesses the chronological, biological, and subjective conceptions of age, examining how well they improve the accuracy of the legal system, impact administrative costs, promote autonomy interests, and further antisubordination goals. It then charts three potential paths forward for legal age: abolishing age as a meaningful legal category for adults, particularizing the definition of legal age based on context, and reforming the chronological status quo through the calibration of existing age-based law.


File nameDate UploadedVisibilityFile size
7 Sep 2022
858 kB



  • Subject
    • Civil Rights and Discrimination

    • Jurisprudence

    • Law and Society

    • Medical Jurisprudence

    • Retirement Security Law

  • Journal title
    • Boston College Law Review

  • Volume
    • 63

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Pagination
    • 521

  • Date submitted

    7 September 2022