Our culture is statistics-saturated. Harvests of numbers and hackneyed conjectures are staples of American discourse. What narrative slinks beneath these opinion polls and studies and surveys? What is the awkward coupling of word and number trying to express?
Demographics will present interviews and statistical narratives focusing on an important population in American society. We begin with 18 to 24 year old men.
When psychotherapist Mary Pipher published Reviving Ophelia: saving the selves of adolescent girls in 1994, young women everywhere were succumbing to distorted pressures of the teenage years: falling into depression, developing anorexia and bulimia, and suffering from anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorders. Pipher was not the first to identify this phenomenon, but she spoke up the loudest and commanded the nation’s attention. Reviving Ophelia ascended to the New York Times “Bestseller List” and stayed there for over three years.
In 1996, Time Magazine quoted Pipher as saying, “if there’s a therapist who wants a writing project, I think there’s a need for a book about how the culture affects the mental health of boys.”
Such books were undoubtedly underway, and one year later, the first of the new crop debuted: The Wonder of Boys: What Parents, Mentors, and Educators Can Do to Shape Boys into Exceptional Men by Michael Gurian. Others followed swiftly: Real boys: rescuing our sons from the myths of boyhood by Dr. William Pollack in 1998, and Raising Cain: protecting the emotional life of boys by Drs. Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson in 1999, among others.
The boys of the mid-nineties have grown into young men. The crisis facing their generation did not take place half a decade ago, when it was popular to publish books on cultural crises, but is happening right now. What trend are we living in the middle of? What is it like be a young man in America?
Guernica asked Brian, a 20-year old white male from the Midwest, about himself, his family, and his generation.
Guernica: When you were ten, who did you want to become? What was your dream job?
Brian: I wanted to become a pro basketball player or a pro baseball player. I was obsessed with idea of doing something great in front of thousands of people and being a “hero.”
G: Do you still want the same things?
B: No, well, yes, but I know realistically that it will
not happen. I honestly don’t know what I want to do anymore.
G: Did you attend a public or a private high school?
G: Did you ever consider dropping out? Did any of your friends drop out?
B: No, I never considered that. My friend Bob dropped out, and he actually was the smartest kid I knew, ironically.
G: Are you enrolled in college?
B: Yes, I am in Lorain County Community College in Ohio.
G: What are your parents’ education levels?
B: Both have high school diplomas and my mother has an Associate’s Degree in Physical Therapy.
G: If you burned a mix c.d. of your ten favorite songs, what would be on it?
B: “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin; “No Excuses” by Alice In Chains; “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica; “Toy Soldiers” by Martika; “Cemetary Gates” by Pantera; “Nothing But a G Thang” by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog; “Use of Time” by 311; “Lithium” by Nirvana; “A Day in the Life” by The Beatles; and “On the Turning Away” by Pink Floyd.
G: Have you ever seen a therapist?
B: Yes, I have.
G: Have you ever been on medication for depression, anxiety, attention-deficit disorder, etc.?
B: Yes, and I still am to this day.
G: Are your parents married or divorced?
G: Describe the town you live in. Are good jobs available there?
B: It’s a descent sized town in Northern Ohio, but they’re aren’t too many good jobs available.
G: Have you ever lived by yourself?
B: No, I have not.
G: Have you ever had sexual intercourse? If so, how old were you when you lost your virginity?
B: Yes, I have, and I was 19.
G: Are you a registered voter?
B: Yes, I am.
G: Are you affiliated with any political party?
B: Yes, the Democrats.
G: What is the “American Dream”?
B: The American dream is growing up in a nice city, getting your high school diploma going off to college, meeting the girl of your dreams, getting your degree, then getting a good job and raising a family.
G: Describe your ideal Saturday night.
B: My ideal Saturday night would be going to a bar for a little bit, then heading to my friend’s cottage and drinking the night away with my best friends.
G: If you met the right person, what is the earliest age you would consider getting married?
B: Twenty-five would be the earliest age.
G: What did your parents do right when they raised you?
B: They instilled values such as loyalty and honesty in me.
G: What was the most difficult part of your life thus far?
B: My best friend committing suicide. It has been a nightmare in many respects and I am just trying to cope with the fact he is gone.
G: What is the greatest problem facing men your age? How does your generation differ from your father’s generation?
B: The greatest problem is everyone trying to find themselves. At this age, it is so hard to be steady in school, date, work, and have a good social life all at once when, inside, you don’t even know who you really are yet.
G: What would you like to accomplish in the next five years?
B: I would like to get my college degree and move out on my own and hopefully fall in love.
G: Is MP3 file sharing fair?
B: Yes and no.
G: Should stem cell research be fully legal?
G: Can you cook?
G: Do you smoke?
G: Have you read any Harry Potter books?
G: Professional wrestling: seriously fun or
soap operas for men?
B: Soap operas for men.
G: Sugar or salt?
G: What’s the best video game system of all time?
B: Regular Nintendo.
G: Should the draft be reinstated for any reason?
13,873,829: number of 18 to 24 year old American males in 2000
7,500,000: number of young adults the Department of Labor classifies as “at risk”
59: percentage at risk youth who are male
58: percentage who are Hispanic or African-American
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; Department of Labor; William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
7,976,242: number of 18 to 24 year old males who are not enrolled in school
5,855,344: number of young men who are enrolled in school
77: percentage of 17 year olds who graduated from high school in 1970
73: percentage of 17 year old graduates in 2002
58.9: percentage of high school dropouts who are male
66: percentage of youth at risk who have not graduated from high school
31: percentage of the American population who are Hispanic or African-American
55: percentage of African-American students who graduate from high school
53: percentage of Hispanic students who graduate from high school
17: percentage of college students who are Hispanic or African-American
85: percentage of bachelor degrees earned by men in 1870
43: percentage of bachelor degrees earned by men in 2000
4,168: number of colleges and universities in the United States
40: percentage increase in the number of accredited colleges since 1974
50: percentage increase in college enrollment since 1974
34: percentage of male students who attend college part-time
47: percentage of 18 to 24 year olds who have never attended college
15: percentage of 16 to 24 year olds who are neither enrolled in school nor work
57: percentage of college seniors who live with their parents after graduation
55: percentage of males ages 18 to 24 who live at home
Sources: U.S. Census Bureau; National Center for Education Statistics; William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; Manhattan Institute for Policy Research; Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education; Chronicle of Higher Education; The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement; Center for Labor Market Studies; American Demographics; World Almanac & Book of Facts
Finances and Employment
44.3: percentage of jobs requiring a high school diploma or less
58: percentage of employed high school dropouts
79: percentage of employed high school graduates
39: percentage decrease of lifetime income for high school dropouts as compared to those with Associate’s degrees
9.2: average number of jobs a person has between the ages of 18 and 34
76.7: percentage of full and part-time college students who work
26.2: average number of hours students work per week
85: percentage of college expenses paid for by the maximum Pell Grant in 1975
40: percentage of college expenses paid for by the maximum Pell Grant in 2001
5,000,000,000: number of credit card solicitations received by American households in 2001
$20,402: average debt for college graduates
83: percentage of college seniors who are confident they will be offered at least one job
38: percentage of job applicants with deficient skills in reading, writing, and math
116: percentage of after-tax income spent by 25 year-old and under households
57: percentage of 18 to 24 year olds who disapprove of George W. Bush’s economic policies
Sources: Economic Policy Institute; William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; U.S. Census Bureau; Bureau of Labor Statistics; National Center for Education Statistics; Center for Law and Social Policy; Consumer Federation of America; Nellie Mae; American Demographics; American Management Association; Annenberg Public Policy Center
1 in 5: ratio of eligible voters ages 18 to 29 to the general voting public
58: percentage of 18 to 29 year olds who are registered to vote
40: percentage of males ages 18 to 24 who voted in the 2000 Election
28: percentage of 18 to 29 year olds who identify themselves as Republicans
34: percentage of 18 to 29 year olds who identify themselves as Democrats
26: percentage of 18 to 29 year olds who identify themselves as Independents
24: percentage of 18 to 29 year olds who have not yet decided on a candidate
40: percentage of 18 to 29 year olds who closely followed the election in 1992
27: percentage of 18 to 29 year olds who closely follow this year’s election
8: percentage of 18 to 29 year olds who believe John Kerry wants to reinstate the draft
51: percentage of 18 to 29 year olds who believe George W. Bush wants to reinstate the draft
53: percentage of 18 to 29 year olds who believe the Iraq war was not worth it
Sources: The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement; The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press; Annenberg Public Policy Center
Arts and Entertainment
5.92: average hours per day that 15-24 year old men spend on leisure and sports
42: percentage of households using the Internet
59.8: percentage of 18 to 24 year olds who read literature in 1982
42.8: percentage of 18 to 24 year olds who read literature in 2002
13.9: percentage of 18 to 24 year olds who read poetry
12.7: percentage of 18 to 24 year olds who write
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics; National Endowment for the Arts
In the Bedroom
22: median age at which men got married in 1950
27: median age at which men got married in 2000
83: percentage of 18 to 24 year old males who have had sexual intercourse
73: percentage of 18 to 24 year old males who have had oral sex
36: percentage of 18 to 24 year old males who have slept with 2-5 people
43: percentage of 18 to 24 year old males who were 16 or 17 when they first had sex
62: percentage of 18 to 24 year old males who usually use condoms
85: percentage of 15 to 17 year old males who usually use condoms
Sources: Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Emerging Adulthood; The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
77: percentage of white males ages 18 to 24 who smoke cigarettes
35: percentage of minorities ages 18 to 24 who smoke cigarettes
37: percentage of males ages 18 to 22 who smoke marijuana
37: percentage of males ages 18 to 22 who gamble
22.1: percentage of people ages 18 and older who have mental disorders
3 to 1: ratio of young men with attention deficit disorder to young women
2,200,000: number of people ages 18 and older who have schizophrenia
19,100,000: number of people ages 18 to 54 who have an anxiety disorder
6,000,000: number of men who suffer from depression annually
90: percentage of manic-depressive disorders that emerge before age 20
10: average amount of years before a manic-depressive is correctly diagnosed
25: percentage of time an adult manic-depressive will spend in the hospital
1 in 5: ratio of manic-depressives who commit suicide to those who do not
86: percentage of suicides among 15 to 24 year olds committed by males
7 to 1: ratio of 20 to 24 year old males who committed suicide to females
90+: percentage of young adults who had a psychiatric disorder when they committed suicide
Sources: American Heart Association; National Adolescent Risk Survey of Youth; National Institute of Mental Health; National Center for Health Statistics; Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance; National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
5.9: percentage of white men who will go to prison
17: percentage of Hispanic men who will go to prison
32: percentage of African-American men who will go to prison
50: percentage of prisoners who were under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they committed a crime
40: percentage of alcohol-related fatal car crashes
22: median age of rape victims
36: average number of months a drug offender is on probation
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics