What Do We Know about the High School Class of 2013?

BETHESDA, MD — June 11, 2013 — Imagine a senior class of 100. They’re the product of their genetic predispositions, their families, their communities, and all of the opportunities (or lack of opportunities) they’ve encountered since birth. They’ve made both good choices and not-so-good ones. They’re on the threshold of adulthood. But what do we really know about them and what does their future hold?

Child Trends, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center on children and youth issues, examined a range of available statistics to provide this portrait of the high school class of 2013:

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  • 89 are covered by health insurance.
  • 71 have experienced physical assault; 28 have been victimized sexually; 32 have experienced some form of child maltreatment.
  • 68 will go on to a college or university.
  • 64 have had sexual intercourse.
  • 56 participated in school sports in the past year.
  • 54 are white; 23 are Latino; 15 are African American; 8 are something else.
  • 53 have parents who say their neighborhood is “always safe.”
  • 51 used no alcohol, cigarettes, or illicit drugs during the past 30 days.
  • 48 are sexually active.  27 of them used a condom and 12 were on birth control pills the last time they had sex.
  • 45 get the recommended amount of physical activity.
  • 45 watch television for one hour or less on weekdays; 20 watch four hours or more.
  • 39 participated in school music or other performing arts in the past year.
  • 39 have ever been bullied, physically or emotionally; 16 have been bullied in the past year.
  • 38 have a reading achievement-test score that puts them in the “proficient or above” category.
  • 35 volunteered in the past year.
  • 35 eat meals together with their families 6 or 7 days a week; 35 do so on three or fewer days.
  • 34 are overweight; of these, 18 are obese.
  • 29 felt “sad and hopeless” continuously for at least two weeks during the past year.
  • 28 attend religious services at least once at week; 26 say religion plays a very important role in their lives.
  • 28 rode in a car during the past year with a driver who had been drinking.
  • 27 were in a physical fight last year.
  • 27 have a writing achievement-test score that puts them in the “proficient or above” category.
  • 26 have a mathematics achievement-test score that puts them in the “proficient or above” category.
  • 24 were binge-drinking in the past two weeks.
  • 23 smoked marijuana in the past 30 days.
  • 22 are living in poverty; 10 are living in deep poverty.
  • 21 had a sexually transmitted infection in the past year.
  • 18 have special health care needs.
  • 17 are current cigarette smokers.
  • 17 are employed.
  • 16 carried a weapon in the past year.
  • 14 thought seriously about attempting suicide in the past year; 6 went through with the attempt; and 2 required medical attention afterward.
  • 12 have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).
  • 12 had unintentional injuries in the past year that required attention in a hospital emergency room.
  • 11 have asthma.
  • 10 have at some time been diagnosed by a professional with having a learning disability.
  • 10 report they were victims of dating violence in the past year.
  • 10 report they have been raped.
  • 8 used an illicit drug other than marijuana in the past 30 days.
  • 8 have unmet dental needs.
  • 7 smoke marijuana every day, or nearly every day.
  • 6 were victims of hate speech during the past six months.
  • 4 have an eating disorder where they’ve vomited or taken laxatives to lose weight.
  • 3 were victims of violent crime in the past year.
  • Of the females, 3 or 4 have been, or are, pregnant. One has had an abortion.
  • 1 used steroids in the past year.
  • 1 or two are in foster care.

Child Trends Senior Research Scientist David Murphey provided the statistical composite by examining available data for U.S. high school seniors (or youth of about that age) that are nationally representative, and as close in time to 2013 as is available.

“This profile offers a revealing look at the characteristics of teens and many of the issues they have encountered in their lives,” said Murphey. “While, it depicts an ‘average’ class, any actual class may look very different. But, chances are, it’s not too far off the mark.”

Note: A list of references for the statistics above can be found online at Child Trends website.

Child Trends, based in Bethesda, Md., is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that provides valuable information and insights on the well-being of children and youth. For more than 30 years, policymakers, funders, educators and service providers in the U.S. and around the world have relied on our data and analyses to improve policies and programs serving children and youth.  Our work is supported by foundations; federal, state and local government agencies; and by nonprofit organizations.