Getting Better All the Time

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"Ask any teen: growing up today feels tougher than ever," Hillary Rodham Clinton wrote recently in Newsweek, justifying her May White House Conference on Teenagers. "While the cases may be extreme, the tragedies at Columbine High School…and just recently at the National Zoo, are chilling reminders of the stress, alienation and violence that can overwhelm a troubled teen."

It's difficult to know how today's teens could compare their troubles to those of past generations, but many statistical indicators show that the lives of children in general, and teens in particular, are actually improving.

"Children are living healthier and safer lives than ever before," concludes Kimberly M. Thompson, assistant professor of analysis and decision science at Harvard, in the April 2000 issue of Risk in Perspective. Looking back a century, Thompson points out that today's children can expect to live 30 extra years. As for Hillary's teenagers, they're best off not listening to politically motivated adults and relaxing a little bit instead. Their world is far from perfect, but it's also a place where death before the end of one's second decade is decidedly less likely than it once was.

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