Friday, January 30, 2004


The 'white flight' that emptied urban centers and created a boom in suburban 'bedroom communities' decades ago was driven largely by parents' desire to enroll their kids in better schools. Parents believed their children would be safer outside of the gritty reality of the inner city. This recent study by the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research indicates the students face the same temptations and succumb pretty equally.

This report finds that those perceptions are unfounded. Using hard data on high school students from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, one of the most comprehensive and rigorous studies of the behavior of American high school students, it finds that suburban public high school students have sex, drink, smoke, use illegal drugs, and engage in delinquent behavior as often as urban public high school students. Students also engage in these behaviors more often than most people realize.

In fact the numbers would indicate that suburban students even out-do their urban counterparts.

Urban and suburban high schools are virtually identical in terms of widespread sexual activity. Two thirds of all suburban and urban 12th graders have had sex; 43% of suburban 12th graders and 39% of urban 12th graders have had sex with a person with whom they did not have a romantic relationship.

Pregnancy rates are high in both suburban and urban schools, although they are higher in urban schools; 14% of suburban 12th grade girls and 20% of urban 12th grade girls have been pregnant.

Over 60% of suburban 12th graders have tried cigarette smoking, compared to 54% of urban 12th graders; 37% of suburban 12th graders have smoked at least once a day for at least 30 days, compared to 30% of urban 12th graders.

Alcohol use followed a similar pattern; 74% of suburban 12th graders and 71% of urban 12th graders have tried alcohol more than two or three times; 63% of suburban 12th graders and 57% of urban 12th graders drink without family members present; 22% of suburban 12th graders and 16% of urban 12th graders have driven while drunk.

About four out of ten 12th graders in both urban and suburban schools have used illegal drugs; 20% of suburban 12th graders and 13% of urban 12th graders have driven while high on drugs.

Urban and suburban students are about equally likely to engage in other delinquent behaviors such as fighting and stealing.

The lesson here for parents I think is that you can't protect your children from the dangers of growing up. The only intervention that works is communication and trust. The best way to keep them safe in any environment is through honest discussion on the consequences of bad choices. Talk to your kids, and more importantly listen to what they have to say.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home