Family Values and Young People’s Behavior

The President helps set a tone. One of the things the President might affect can be seen in the values that people pass along to their children. These values, in turn, can be seen by how children behave.

The table below shows the annual change in the % of 12th graders who report smoking cigarettes daily in the last 30 days, who reported drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in the previous 2 weeks, and who reported using illicit drugs in the last 30 days. (Note… the data set I was able to find only goes back to 1980.)


(data runs through 2005)

The next table shows the annual change in the rate of serious violent crimes committed by youths age 12 to 17.

_______violent crimes

(data runs through 2004)

Note… because the underlying data is in percentage terms, the changes shown are simply yearly averages.

So what is going on… well, Clinton did best at cutting serious violent crimes by youths, but he was also the only President under whom nonviolent crime increased.

What is going on? Well, my theories:
1. If the economy is doing very well, as it was under Clinton, young people can afford to buy drugs, alcohol, and booze. They also might not feel frustrations that would lead to committing more violent crimes
2. Reagan, GHW, and GW promoted tough guy images. That might promote those with criminal tendencies to commit violent crimes. (If video games will do it, why not Americans cheering planes bombing stuff on tv?) On the other hand, Clinton, well, he “didn’t inhale.” That might inspire those with criminal tendencies to smoke pot, drink, or smoke.
3. Killing, raping, and pillaging take effort, and are that much harder if you’re stoned.

A I missing any reasons? Do you buy these reasons? (I tend to lean two thirds toward option 1, and one third to option 2.) Also… in discussing youth crimes… does anything else bear mentioning?

All data came from here.