Teenagers Are Pretty Awesome These Days

High school students are protesting guns, and that’s prompted some folks to dredge up a decade-old tweet from NRA flack Dana Loesch:

They can be annoying, all right, especially when they’re protesting guns. But all jokes aside, it’s worth being in awe of just how much better today’s teenagers are than those of Loesch’s era. Naturally, I’ve got a chart:

Bad behaviors have declined substantially since the mid-90s and good behaviors have increased. It’s pretty astonishing how widespread this is. They may annoy us with their smartphones and insistence on doing good works, but they’re in a helluva lot better shape than us Boomer/Gen X folks ever were.

SOURCES:

  • Cigarettes: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (1995 here, 2016 Table 2.2B here). 12-17 year-olds reporting cigarette use in past month: 4.2% vs. 20%.
  • Arrest rate: Dept. of Justice here. Raw arrest rates, 1995-2016: 2,553 per 100,000 vs. 8,228 per 100,000.
  • Teen pregnancy: Dept. of Health & Human Services here. 15-19 year-olds, 1995-2014: 24.2% vs. 56%.
  • Drunk driving: CDC National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 1995 here, 2015 here: 7.8% vs. 15.4%.
  • School fights: NYRBS. Physical fight within past 12 months: 22.6% vs. 38.7%.
  • Alcohol use: Same as cigarettes.
  • Drug use: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (1995 here, 2016 Table 1.2B here). 12-17 year-olds reporting any illicit drug use in past month: 8.8% vs. 11%.
  • Carried a weapon: NYRBS. Carried a weapon at least once in past 30 days: 16.2% vs. 20.0%.
  • NAEP reading: Long-term NAEP assessment here, 17-year-olds, 2012 vs. 1994: 289 vs. 288. Note that two points were added to 2012 scores to compensate for assessment format changes.
  • NAEP math: NAEP. Scale scores: 308 vs. 306.
  • Attend college: National Center for Education Statistics here. Percent of recent high school completers enrolled in college: 69.8% vs. 61.9%.
  • School sports: NYRBS. Played on at least one sports team run by school or community group: 57.6% vs. 50.3%.
  • High school units: NCES here, 1987-2009. Average number of Carnegie units earned by public high school graduates: 27.15 vs. 23.00.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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ONE MORE QUICK THING:

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As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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