Saturday, June 08, 2013

credit where credit is due | a small idea from Raising Adults

When I first researched Raising Adults in the mid to late-90s, the toxicity for America’s adolescents could be easily measured in violent crimes, low achievement, high dropout rates, unintended pregnancies, the percentage of American children living in poverty, sexualized violence against and between children and adolescents, millions of sexually transmitted infections each year, eating disorders and self-mutilation, addictive behaviors and drug dependency: “God, I feel depressed just thinking about,” I wrote in the first edition. 
Most of those measures are significantly lower today (and, current data being much easier to access now than in those days, I now know the picture was already changing by the time of the first printing in 1999). 
For Americans under the age of 19:
  • arrests for burglary fell 61% from 1990-2010 [1]
  • murder arrests reached a sickening peak in 1993, then fell 71% by 2000, and another 20% from 2000-2010 [2]
  • aggravated assault arrests peaked around 1994 and then dropped 28% by 2010 [3]
  • drug sale/manufacturing arrest rates in 2010 were less than half their peak around 1997 [4]
  • forcible rape arrests dropped 58% from 1990-2010 [5]
  • weapon law violations in 2010 were half the peak level in the mid-90s [6]
  • the dropout rate slid from about 15% in 1970, to around 12% in 1990, then to 7.5% in 2010. [7]
  • from 1990 - 2010, teenage pregnancy rates fell 42%; births to teenagers dropped by half; and the rate of teenage abortions declined by 59% from the peak in 1988, reaching the lowest level since 1973 [8]
Among the mixed and negative indicators...
  • arrests for drug possession/use were much higher in 2010 than 1990—even thought the rate dropped significantly from 2006-2010. [9]
  • Simple assault arrests—assaults with no weapon and no significant injury—were much higher among girls in in 2010 than in 1990—and much lower among boys. [10]
  • at this writing, sexually transmitted diseases among 15-19 year-olds are a mixed bag, with some infections down dramatically and others up just as dramatically. Syphilis fell to three cases per 100,000 in 2011; gonorrhea   dropped to 388 cases per 100,000, chlamydia climbed to 1,886 per 100,000. [11] [12]
  • In 1990, 20.6 percent of American children under age 18 lived in poverty. 
    • That percentage rose through the mid-90s, reaching 22.7 percent in 1993;
    • then declined (to 16.2 percent in 2000), 
    • only to rise again, returning to 22 percent in 2010. [13]
Have we done right by America’s children? Sometimes. It does still seem crazy that one in five or six of our children grows up certifiably poor in the world’s largest economy. But the story told by most of the numbers, most of the time, is that most of our children have done right by us. Overall, they’ve done considerably better than we did at the same age. They should get credit for that. Maybe we should get some too.

— from Raising Adults

[1] Bureau of Justice Statistics
[2] ibid
[3] ibid
[4] ibid
[5] ibid
[6] ibid
[7] National Center for Education Statistics
[8] US Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health
[9] US Department of Justice
[10] ibid
[11] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
[12] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Selected STDs by Age, Race/Ethnicity, and Gender, 1996-2009 

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