spring breakers 2

Turns Out That Under-25s Are Smarter and Safer Than Ever

Young adults today might not be able to find a job, but they're better behaved than they have been in the past 20 years. Less badass or more mature? You decide

It’s an old axiom that every generation is more rebellious than the one that came before it. Ask any member of Generation X (or “the Olds,” as we call them) and they might rip out the tired cliché that kids today—what with their sexting gadgets and twerking pop stars—are cause for moral panic.

The reality is that compared with the previous generation, a relatively large proportion of young people are unemployed, saddled with loan debt and still living with their parents. Millennials, it might seem, despite being better educated than their forebearers, are failing at life.

But not so fast. According to data Vocativ culled from sources ranging from the Economic Policy Institute to the U.S. Department of Justice to the Centers for Disease Control, young adults in the U.S. are actually far more straight-laced than they were 20 years ago. When it comes to general shenanigans—including alcohol and drug use, teen pregnancy, violent crimes and more—rates have declined across the board over the past 20 years, except when it comes to smoking weed (which has risen 38 percent).

We took 20 years of data, from 1993 to 2013, taking the midpoint (2003) as a baseline set at zero for all categories. Red lines on our charts denote that things got worse, while the blue lines indicate that things improved.

Click through the various tabs below to see how 15- to 25-year-olds have been keeping their act together over the past two decades.




This should be a comfort to any parents who worry about their kids: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, today’s young adults are consuming less alcohol and illicit drugs (cocaine, MDMA, heroin, etc.) than ever before. This excludes marijuana use, which has shot up, in line with America’s liberalized stance on weed, including the recent wave of legalization in a handful of states. Also, more kids are graduating from high school and fewer are committing violent crimes or getting knocked up than they were 20 years ago. So maybe weed isn’t so much a bad thing?


Unemployment figures tell a different, depressing story. According to a 2014 report from the Economic Policy Institute, unemployment for college graduates is 8.5 percent, while the rate for all 15- to 24-year-olds is a whopping 16.5 percent—more than twice the national average.


Regardless of the shitty job prospects for Americans under 25, young people today are staying in school longer than Gen Xers. Relative to 1993, more high school seniors are enrolling in higher education according to the report by the Economic Policy Institute, while the total undergraduate and graduate school enrollment continues to climb.


Drug and Alcohol Use: The National Institute on Drug Abuse; Teen Pregnancy: Center for Disease Control and Prevention; Abortion Rate: The Guttmacher Institute; High School Dropout Rate: National Center for Education Statistics; Youth Crime Rate: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; Youth Unemployment Rate: The Economic Policy Institute; Higher Education Enrollment: The Economic Policy Institute

Respond Now
  • Sorry, I havent met any “smart” Millennials so far.  Had a chat with a few at a local Starbucks and none of them knew any history, any geography and absolutly nothing about economics.  But I dont know if it is the schools fault or the kids.

    2 Replies - Reply Now
    • I understand how you feel. I was born in 1992. The bulk of my Civics, history and geography came from home. School House Rock and books. Constantly reading. Watching “Founding Brothers”, History channel And Nova specials…. Who in the millennial generation reads anymore? Who watches educational tv anymore? They know more about Kim and Miley than Thomas Jefferson or John Adams

    • So true.  Proof is how the schools quit teaching cursive writing so young adults now print everything which looks so childish out in the business world.  Their printing doesn’t even appear as an adult printing.  Dummying-down and the parents are allowing it to be thrush on their kids.

  • Is it me or when I read something about millennials, do they keep getting younger? A 34 year old is technically a millennial, right? 

  • : )) 100 years mark since the great-warthumps up hope!!!

  • I seriously doubt that Millennials are, “better educated” than Gen X. They may be, “wired in”, or, “connected” 24/7, but that doesn’t equate to being better educated.Ironic and counterintuitive as it sounds, ignorance abounds in the Information Age.

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • Re: “…ignorance abounds in the Information Age.” So do moot, unsubstantiated opinions.  

  • I’ve been blogging about my generation, the “OLDS” (ugh) a.k.a. Generation X, since 2007. I believe everything this article says. I *luv* my generation, but we are and always have been, a complete mess. That is, if you believe in collective personas, which I do for the most part. The only thing I will say is Gen Y has a big tendency to devalue the experience of their elders, I mean OLDS. Ha! No amount of tech savvy or “smarts” can replace boots-on-the-ground experience. Once they figure this out, they’ll be unstoppable! Having said that, Gen Y’s immaturity is only matched by Generation X’s constantly cutting sarcasm. I am sick of it so I know Boomers and Millennials must be at their breaking point. Carry on. All generations are wayward. It’s just which wayward are they?

    1 Reply - Reply Now
    • Its hard to say that younger people should respect the leadership of the “olds” when America has failed so fantastically in recent years in so many fundamental ways. I think that’s where the respect gap comes into play.

  • Where’s the graph representing narcissism. 

  • Show More
  • nice article, nice to share


Model Sets Off Firestorm With Gun Tweet, But Data Proves She's Right

M.L. Nestel

Remember Chunk from "The Goonies"? He's a Lawyer

Molly Fitzpatrick

VOTR App: "Tinder for Politics"

Rebecca Steinberg

8 Toys 'R' Us Products More Disturbing Than the "Breaking Bad" Dolls

Molly Fitzpatrick

The Booming Black Market for Chocolate Milk

Gabriel Bell

Every Major League Baseball Team's Victory Song, Ranked

Molly Fitzpatrick

Why the U.S. Drone War Could Last Forever

John Knefel

Sorry I Ran You Over. Now Please Pay Me $2,000

M.L. Nestel
Join the Fray
3-Year-Old Steals Car, Crashes Into House, Denies Everything