Indicator List for Youth Development

Young girl

Child Trends brings a multi-disciplinary perspective to its studies of adolescents and young adults and the programs that serve them. We conduct national and local evaluations of after-school and prevention programs (see brief about Abriendo Puertas). These evaluations include not only impact evaluations to examine whether programs are effective, but also implementation evaluations to examine how they work. We work with programs and funders to ensure that programs are ready for evaluation by helping develop logic models, conduct needs assessments, and develop and refine their performance management capacities. A critical part of our work is research to understand and measure adolescent and young adult well-being for national studies and evaluations (for example, the Positive Indicators Project).

We also compile evaluations by researchers from around the world and synthesize these studies to identify effective (and ineffective) programs and practices. The information is widely disseminated in clear language via research briefs, policy briefings, webinars and through technical assistance to practitioners and local communities.

Indicator List for Youth Development

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking among high schoolers declined during the 2000s, and is now at record low levels; however, as of 2015, nearly one in five (17 percent) 12th-graders reported this behavior.


Daily Cigarette Use

The prevalence of daily cigarette use among youth declined dramatically in the 2000s; among twelfth-graders it decreased to nearly a quarter of what it had been, from 25 percent in 1997 to 7 percent in 2014. However, in recent years, youth’s use of electronic cigarettes has risen dramatically, and now surpasses their use of any other form of tobacco.



Since 2001, the share of twelfth-grade students who report dating frequently has declined steadily, reaching a new low of 17 percent in 2013, while the proportion who report not dating at all increased to 38 percent.


Distracted Driving

Distracted driving poses a serious and potentially deadly risk to young people. In 2013, 10 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. Among all drivers, inattention is the leading factor in most crashes and near-crashes.


Drunk Driving

Between 1991 and 2013, the percentage of high school students who report riding in a car with someone who had been drinking alcohol has fallen by nearly half, from 40 to 22 percent.


Educational Attainment

Among 25- to 29-year olds, the proportions who have attained a high school education, some college, or a bachelor’s degree are all rising, according to long-term trends. However, despite progress, in 2013, only a third of this population had a bachelor’s degree or higher.

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