Welcome to YouthFacts
We Are Debunkers
YouthFacts is dedicated to providing factual information on youth issues –- crime, violence, sex, drugs, drinking, social behaviors, education, civic engagement, attitudes, media, whatever teen terror du jour arises. Since we emphasize demonstrable fact over teen-bashing emotionalism and interest-driven propaganda, the information you find here will be dramatically different than in the major media and political forums.
For all we are hearing decade after decade about the supposedly dire state of mental health among young people, with alarms raised about “teen suicide” steadily since at least 1913, youth show more favorable trends than their parents over the last generation (Figure 1, click on image if unclear).
Note: Rates shown are annual suicides and deaths of undetermined intent suspected of being suicides for ages under 20 divided by the population ages 15-19 (teens), and for ages 35-54 (parents). Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020). The linear trendline mathematically incorporates all data points.
An aging society confronted with rapid change can be a dangerous one, fearful and hostile toward bewildering new demographics, technologies, and social orders. Unfortunately, leaders and their compliant media too often have chosen to exploit these fears. Coinciding with increasing racial diversity of American youth, interests of every stripe have buttressed their politics, agendas, fame, and fortunes by manufacturing ever-wilder fears of young people. As “youth” have become handier scapegoats and profit-generating commodities in America’s privatized social policy, fear, lying, and raw self-promotion prevail.
The startlingly new and different information provided here is ORIGINAL. It is not derived secondhand from special interests, media reports, or anointed “experts.” Rather, the reader will be able to link to the primary sources cited and see firsthand how youth issues are routinely distorted in public forums.
Sure, we have opinions, but we don’t tie information here to political or social agendas. As so many interests and media across the political spectrum manufacture grossly inaccurate nonsense about youth, we promise a site that is offensive to ideologues. And, unlike entrenched interests, we’ll respond seriously to challenges and corrections.
New Youth Developments
Dramatic, promising youth trends demand attention
Mike Males, October 1, 2015
Modern American youth are acting very differently from what experts predicted – and certainly different from what agenda-driven politics frozen in decades-old dogmas can handle.
YouthFacts posts new 1960-2014 crime tables, showing continuing, dramatic declines in all types of crime by youth to levels below those of 50 years ago (even as crime by older ages continues to rise). Clearly, the best, most recent FBI and CDC information shows it’s time to abolish the hostile, prejudicial term “youth violence,” and to stop branding teenagers a “risky, crime-prone population.”
The charts on gun deaths (above), crime trends (below), and shown in the posted crime tables only a few of many examples. Against every theory of youth behavior and political need, however, young people show enormous reductions in gun fatalities over the last two decades in states with stronger gun controls and fewer guns (New York and California) — and also in states with weaker, “open carry” laws and more guns (Texas)…(read more)
“Lawless dystopia” averted!
Change in California felony rates by age group, 1978 (first year available) – 2014 (latest year)
California Criminal Justice Statistics Center, Statistics, Arrests, 2015. Arrest rates per 100,000 population by age group are compared for 2014 versus 1978.
Mike Males, August 6, 2015
California’s young people became dramatically more racially and ethnically diverse over the last 35 years. From 1980 to 2014, the population age 10-24 increased by 1.8 million, and the percent that is White (not Latino) fell from 63% then to 29% today. During that period — defying “expert” predictions and a lot of fear-mongering about the “coming youth crime wave” — crime among children under age 12 plunged by a staggering 94%, and fell among adolescents age 12-17 by 76%. Meanwhile, Californians age 30 and older (for whom the largest racial group remains Whites) show sharply increased crime over the period, new Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice studies show.
“Members” Now: Citizens Later?
Anthony Bernier, October 2017
America does not appear in the mood to broaden its notion of “citizenship” for the next while. This fight doesn’t end here, of course, but the current environment is a minefield of political kryptonite and recrimination.
For several years, however, I have been urging librarians to define YA users (within the context of the particular work librarians do) broadly and locally as citizens–not as psychologists (who define youth as “patients” or research subjects) or the different ways in which police officers, school counselors, or social workers variously define young adults for their own institutions.
I previously argued that libraries adopt and redefine the notion of “citizen” to include young people in local environments, outside and beyond the reach of formal or legal definitions, as citizens of their cities, towns, and neighborhoods. I advanced this argument to help libraries (as local institutions) become more mindful about youth in the here and now, instead of how Youth Development’s Grand Agenda does, fixated upon distant futures mired exclusively in privileged middle-class aesthetics and aspirations.
A recent study of African American youth demonstrates that a broader citizenship vision of youth may be asking too much of this adult culture. The study documents young people in public space peacefully observing a live performance. Immediately they became characterized by police, journalists, and judges as a flash mob, as terrorists. These American citizens, exercising their right to a non-violent public gathering, their rights to their city, facilitated by the very digital tools we want them using, attract ire and punishment for simply raising anxiety. (read more)
Beyond the Celebrations
The disturbing things LIS students find out about real YA programming and professionals’ ethical obligation to improve YA experience
Anthony Bernier, August 2017
It becomes more difficult each year to convince LIS students that they need to demonstrate service impact on YAs.
It is especially difficult when they see so little professional commitment to it coming from practitioners in the field. Why is it that so few YA librarians exhibit curiosity about the outcomes their users derive from their professional interventions? It certainly is a rare instance in which librarians demonstrate this curiosity to their future colleagues.
Before you get too angry at this revelation, however, let’s establish a few basic definitions. First and foremost, let’s differentiate library inputs and outputs from outcomes. (read more)
YA Activism: Thunder from the Left (and the Right)
Anthony Bernier, June 2017
What is it going to take?
How much more time must pass before libraries realize that young adults don’t need any “youth development” agenda to recognize them as active participants and contributors to the culture?
While libraries wring hands in moral panics and exaggerations over “youth crime,” “peer pressure” (it’s always peer pressure), and developmental needs (and it’s always needs) – things libraries actually can’t do anything about–the youth go forward without permission from some institution claiming to “empower” them with “community assets.”
It’s too easy to characterize recent youth activism as coming from the cultural or political “left.” Still, it’s difficult to ignore the progressive impacts that the DREAMers or the Black Lives Matter movements are having on national politics and policy (see, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Lives_Matter, and Walter J. Nicholls, 2013, The DREAMers: How the Undocumented Youth Movement Transformed the Immigrant Rights Debate). (read more)
With few exceptions, today’s “expert” books on adolescents by psychologists, angry parents, and journalists are really the same book. All uniformly depict teenagers as more troubled today than ever due to peer and cultural influences, extreme vexations to their healthy-minded parents and a challenge for ever-wise professionals. Their authors’ universal message can be summed up in two words: “I’m superior!” Authors flatter themselves and their readers by creating a community of the morally, intellectually, and responsibly superior, with the grownup burden to rescue and redirect today’s apocalyptically messed-up kids. As popular youth-trasher James Garbarino declares to his disciples, “You are not the problem, you are the solution!”
What’s amazing is that amid this barrage of crude anti-youth stereotyping and dismality, entertainment media presents a wonderfully diverse array of young people that both caricatures and mirrors the individuality of teens the supposedly nonfiction authors deny. Examination reveals just how terrible most books on teenagers today are.
The good: Bibliography and new covers
The bad and the ugly: Book/media reviews
When they admit, reluctantly, that huge improvements in youth behavior have occurred, politicians and interests rush to claim credit. But do they deserve it? The best evidence is that young people themselves deserve the credit. Defying their elders’ selfish cut-my-taxes defunding of schools and pricing of higher education out of reach of middle-class and poorer young people, many more in this generation are avoiding dropout, getting diplomas, attending college, and obtaining degrees than ever before — with huge social benefits. (read more)
Are minorities and young people better off after marijuana laws are reformed? A new preliminary report by YouthFacts, using recently released 2014 data, finds arrests for marijuana offenses of all types drop substantially for all ages and races after states reform marijuana laws — but substantial disparities in marijuana arrest rates by race remain the same.
After the Doors Were Locked: A History of Youth Corrections in California and the Origins of Twenty-First Century Reform Weaving together a compelling and incisive story about the nation’s largest youth corrections system, Dan Macallair lays bare the daily reality of institutional life — including 150 years of scandal, public outrage, and failed reforms.
Now Obama is blaming America’s drug abuse crisis on teenagers. Huge eruptions in middle-aged drug abuse deaths, drug-related suicide, and drug-related crime, and now a president that seems unable to do anything more than bash adolescents? Is “American adulthood” now completely meaningless?
Obama’s latest, bizarre youth-bashing: Drugs, crime and imprisonment are just “teenagers doing stupid things.” The president is proposing valuable reforms to an overly punitive and racially biased justice system. But his bizarrely backwards teen-bashing ignores 20 years of real crime and imprisonment trends and reinforces the very anti-youth climate he claims to deplore.
California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom peddles anti-youth demagoguery to win legal highs for his grownup peers. California’s teens don’t deserve Newsom’s patronizing “protect the children!” jingoism. Teens are handling decriminalized marijuana far better than adults.
Teenage terrorists, right here in River City! Running off in droves to join ISIS! (Wait, maybe it’s fewer than a couple of dozen. Who mostly aren’t teenagers.)
Thank you, Senator Sanders, for demanding a plan to end child/youth poverty We know how to end America’s devastating child/teen-poverty epidemic. But children and youth just aren’t important enough to other presidential candidates.
Please. Not the “pot talk.” “Talk to your teen about (sex, drinking, drugs, etc.)” is just another hypocritical crusade that evades the need for adults to act responsibly themselves.
Why are Atlantic, New Yorker, Harper’s, and other liberal-intellectual journals so enraged at young people? Teen-bashing rantings by Elizabeth Kolbert, Caitlin Flanagan, Rebecca Solnit, and Ron Powers are so patently crazy as to raise questions about the sanity of authors and editors.
It’s okay for liberals to expose the official myth that youth are murdered, raped, beaten, and bullied only by their peers Even among progressives, discussion of adults’ domestic violence victimizing children and teenagers has retreated to 1955-era silence.
Did Colorado’s contraception program really reduce teen births by 40% in six years? Access to contraception and accurate information on sexuality are important human rights for young and old alike. But it’s time for a new ethic to stop treating teens as a mere commodity to advance interests’ agendas.
Obama blames Charleston shooting on “young people.” It is the president himself who is displaying crude bigotry in his continual efforts to demean youth.
Does “It Get Better”? It sounds like a hopeful message to gay teens that just getting older will fix everything. But the underlying image of “It Gets Better” contains false and ugly stereotypes: that gay teens are fragile, straight teens are homophobic bullies, and only gay youth who suffer bullying by peers (but not by adults) are important.
“Sexting” is a bigger threat to youth than poverty, hunger, and family breakup?Doctors, agencies, political leaders, lobbies, journalists, and the public should be ashamed. A new survey shows self-promoting sensationalism has compliant Americans ignorant of (or indifferent to) real threats to children and youth.
Setting a “minimum age” for everything is a bad idea. They sound great and are easy to pass, but minimum drinking ages, smoking ages, marijuana ages, teen driving laws, curfews, abortion consent ages, spray-paint-buying ages, and every other effort to punish teenagers for acting like adults prevent safer age-integrated associations and increase overall dangers to young people and society.
Why is bigotry and distortion against young people the one prejudice that remains acceptable in political and media forums? The growing power of once-stigmatized minority groups has created a dilemma for mainstream and liberal leaders and commentators who seek both the support of minority constituencies and the privileges of ugly “demographic scapegoating” (blaming powerless groups for social ills). Solution: Trash young people, the one remaining safe scapegoat… facts and fairness be damned.
“My Brother’s Keeper’s” message to poorer youth: You’re not important Given this White House’s emotional rhetoric deploring gun violence and young people, you’d think confronting youth poverty would be the highest priority. You’d be wrong. Self-congratulatory photo-ops, condescending lectures on “personal responsibility,” and millions for CEOs, consultants and interests perpetuate the trickle-down “solution” to youth poverty. We sure don’t treat older folks this way.
Stop exploiting “teen suicide”. Teens commit suicide at far lower rates than adults, and the few who do have real causes of distress led by their families’ rejection, violence, depression, and addiction. It’s unconscionable that politicians and interests cynically exploit “teen suicide” to popularize themselves and push their own agendas.
Juvenoia! Teens and young adults remain one group of people that can be publicly disparaged with almost no condemnation.
The minimum-wage movement disowns teenagers. Ignore politicians’ and lobbyists’ pious concerns about teenagers and increasing the minimum wage. All sides are distancing themselves from teenaged workers (our poorest age group other than children, and one which would also benefit from a higher wage), preparatory to betraying them yet again.
Education cutbacks, student debt: The center of the real generation war Aging America incessantly declares how much it cares about “the children” but, somehow, keeps tossing the young under the bus again and again to fortify its own ego, bad habits, and spending on itself.
Elder meltdown threatens young people. There is a generation war — not over funding Social Security and Medicare, which the young strongly favor. Rather, the war between old and young is evident in a review of surveys and voting on major issues, which reveals the appalling racism, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-environment, anti-science, reactionary tribal politics rampant among the elderly and many middle-aged Americans.