Every generation of parents is alarmed by the sexual behavior of the young. But the accusations are more misplaced now than ever. Not only is the rate of teenage pregnancy down to record lows in the United States, but the percentage of ninth-graders who say they have had sexual intercourse has declined from 54 percent in 1991 to 47 percent in 2013. The percentage of high schoolers who say they have had four or more sexual partners also has declined.
Young people are showing a lot more self-control when it comes to substances as well. Binge drinking by 12th-graders is lower than at any time since surveys were started in 1976. The number of teenagers who have been drunk in the past year is at a record low and the drop for eighth-graders is particularly remarkable. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, half as many high school students said they had driven a car after drinking alcohol in 2011 compared with 1991.
Kids also are much less likely to run away and they’re much more conscientious about finishing school. Compared with 1995, 56 percent fewer youth were running away in 2012. And dropout rates among those ages 16 to 24 are at their lowest, down from 17 percent in 1968 to 6.6 percent in 2013.