Kids These Days


They're doing great, it turns out. Violence, drug use, and sex among teens are down. They like their parents. They're happy. They want to get married and have kids.

How did a whole generation of kids turn out so darn good? Glenn Reynold's says it's because of decentralization!

The question is, why are teens doing better? I think there are two answers. First, people noticed problems, and tried a lot of different approaches. Private organizations, church groups, schools, and -- especially -- parents started taking a greater role in educating teenagers and encouraging better behavior. As with teen pregnancy, no single policy solved the problem, but multiple approaches tended to make it better until something seen as insoluble just a few years ago began to look, well, solved.


Another -- and it's a lesson that policy wonks seem slow to learn -- is that people other than policy wonks are capable of learning, and of changing their behavior on their own. Given the chance, and the information, they observe things that work and things that don't, and adjust their lives in ways that seem most likely to get them what they want, if they are allowed to do so. This means that projections of catastrophic future ills are usually wrong, as people learn from experience.

This could be a great new libertarian argument: "We need less government interference - it's for the children's sake!"

NEXT: Michael Moore, Constitutional Scholar

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  1. "...the proportion of teens who had intercourse fell from 56 percent in 1991 to 46 percent in 2001."

    How about the percentage who still give and get head? 🙂

  2. The tag-line "for the children" -- as in "We need to do this for the children" -- is already a very common political rhetorical ploy. Let's see, we have, "We need to ban gay marriage ... FOR THE CHILDREN." "We need to lower/raise taxes ... FOR THE CHILDREN."

  3. BTW, I find a lot of these statistics somewhat suspect; Jacob Sullum probably does too, or at least the creators of "Bullshit!" do. 🙂

  4. What does this mean?:

    "...the antics of San Francisco..."

  5. Funny that the peace and prosperity of the Clinton years wasn't mentioned as a contributor to our teens' contentment.

  6. It's the stronger pot that's available these days. Mellows 'em right out.

  7. If you aren't having sex you aren't doing great. QED.

  8. Looking back on my stuck-up, hyper-conservative, ultra-catholic adolescence I feel that I really missed out on all the sex and drugs my peers were doing.

  9. Gary Gunnels,

    What does this mean?:

    "...the antics of San Francisco..."

    Bloviage from the usual idiots who use SF as shortform for "decandent frenchified pansies" or something similar vs "Rugged SUV Drivers (TM)". These are the same folks who take offense if you refer to, oh, Tenneseans as hicks - try this and wait for the squeals - "slavery is down despite the antics of Charleston".
    Sorry folks, we manufacture your guns & precision guided munitions.

    SF - Wouldn't want to live anywhere else.
    Well, unless there's room on Mars Dome 1.

    BTW - I love Charleston.

  10. I wonder if there is a correlation with increase anti-depressant drug usage over the same decade? Zombies tend to take orders better and are more receptive to sitting down and shutting up.

  11. And it always seem to be the generations prior to mine that looks at this information with skepticism.

  12. Maybe a more relevant question than "Why are things improving?" is "Why were they so bad before?" Maybe NOTHING is making the numbers improve, other than recovery to their natural level.

  13. ::snorts a line:: Who? What? My generation getting better? I would say its not so much kids getting better, so much as being ensnared and entrapped better by a combination of conservative and politically correct liberal forces. Everyones been spayed and neutered so its no surprise that "kids are happier", because there dumb as rocks.

  14. They sure are.

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