State of Our Nation’s Youth Report Released: Teens Up/Down

“Both optimists and pessimists contribute to our society.  The optimist invents the airplane and the pessimist the parachute.”  ~Gil Stern

It’s not often that I heave-ho a bunch of stats and data in your face sans comment, but the 10th State of Our Nation’s Youth report was issued this week by the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans and I just about got whiplash reading the primary findings in the headline: “Teens Pessimistic about Future of the Country, Optimistic About Themselves and Own Future.”

Sometimes the irony of life is inescapable…whether it’s the ‘War and Peace’ juxtaposition of the Beijing Olympics as war breaks out between neighboring Russia and Georgia…or teens being both ‘up and down’ simultaneously. Seems teens are “feeling the weight of the world now more than ever, with a 22% decline in optimism over the past five years” while simultaneously describing their OWN self-confidence in the 88% range.

Okay, I promised no editorial comments this round…so I’ll hush and report the ‘cliff notes’ version, but for more facts/feeds/videos, audio and such, check (a handy site for citizen journalists) The 2008-2009 report is a comprehensive study of American high school students’ opinions, apprehensions and aspirations…Here’s a snapshot at a glance:

Who were the students?

High schoolers reflecting U.S. Census/DOE data for age, area, race, and gender, via American Student List (list management firm maintaining lists of K-12 students with a ± 3.1% pt. margin of error)

How many/what age?

1,006 high school students in grades 9-12, aged 13-19 in a national telephone survey

Who conducted the survey?

Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc. (5th annual survey; more than 5000 public opinion surveys interviewing more than 3 million individuals over the past 30 years)

Primary Findings?

Hart sums, “What emerges from the research results is a portrait of a generation who believe in themselves and their abilities, despite anxieties about the country…They are confident, ambitious and optimistic in spite of the many challenges we all face as a nation.”


Presidential Election — 75% of teens say the election outcome will make a substantial difference in the direction of the country. Students’ biggest concerns are the economy and jobs (34%), and the war in Iraq (31%).

Global Warming — 72% of teens believe global warming is an urgent or serious problem. Caring about the environment is important to them, however the majority (58%) of teens do not consider themselves “environmentalists.”

Education in the Global Economy — To prepare themselves for the global economy, one in three teens say the most important school subjects are science and technology, and 38% wish their schools had more up-to-date technology.

Cyber Bullying — Of the 14.9 million American high school students, 2.4 million (16%) reported that they have been a victim of cyber bullying, and almost one-third (30%) of teens, now view online bullying as a greater threat then traditional bullying in schools.

Immigration — Teens are divided on immigration in the U.S., with 49% saying that it is more of a positive force then negative, while 40% have the opposite view. Teens’ opinions on immigration are in disagreement with their parents’ opinions, with only 39% of adults in another recent survey seeing immigration as a positive force.

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  1. To me that survey sounds spot on. Teens see no relief of economic strain in the near future, but by the time WE are ready to lead WE will know the mistakes of the past. The Bush-Clinton-Bush administrations were all a joke, and that’s about all we have seen first hand. All of us know that the next President could make a major impact on our economy and polices, but will most likely wallow in their own limited views of the world.

  2. Thanks for having such a great resource. I\’ve been searching all over for this.

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