TIME Economy

2 in 5 Young Americans Don’t Want a Job

Mid adult man sitting on sofa using computer game control
Kathleen Finlay—Image Source/Getty Images

Analysis shows increase in the percentage of teenagers and twenty-somethings outside the labor force

Nearly 40% of people in the United States ages 16 to 24 say that they don’t want a job, accounting for a sizable portion of the 92 million Americans who are currently outside the labor force, according to a new analysis of labor statistics.

The figures do not include young people who aren’t working, but are actively seeking employment. About 10% of Americans aged 20 to 24 and 19% of those aged 16 to 19 are considered unemployed, which means they are actively seeking work.

According to Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, 39.4% of men and women aged 16 to 24 are outside the labor force over the first 10 months of 2014. That’s up from 29.5% in 2000, the steepest rise of any age group and one that pre-dates the recent financial crisis.

The U.S. unemployment hit 5.8% last month, the lowest number since 2008.

TIME Culture

How the Cult of Early Success Is Bad for Young People

Photograph by Martin Schoeller for TIME

Taylor Swift and Malala Yousafzai are great role models. They've also set an impossible standard for success

Taylor Swift is on the cover of TIME magazine this week as the new queen of the music industry. She’s been in the business for more than 11 years, but at 24, she’d still have trouble renting a car.

It should be inspiring for young people to see someone so young achieve such phenomenal success. “Other women who are killing it should motivate you, thrill you, challenge you and inspire you rather than threaten you and make you feel like you’re immediately being compared to them,” she told my colleague Jack Dickey. “The only thing I compare myself to is me, two years ago, or me one year ago.”

But despite her best efforts to set a positive example, Swift also represents a generation of super-youth to which normal young people are inevitably compared. “You see someone so young, your age or even younger, being so wildly successful, and you can think ‘they just have it, they have something I don’t have,’” says Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor of Psychology at Stanford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. “You think, ‘I’m so young and already I’m doomed.’”

Forget Forbes’s 30-under-30 list: when it comes to “freshness,” 30 is the new 40. At her age, Taylor Swift isn’t even considered precociously successful– she’s just regular successful. In fact, it’s been a banner year for wunderkind, and not just in entertainment (which has always been fixated on the young and beautiful.) 18-year old Saira Blair just became the youngest American lawmaker when she was elected to the West Virginia Legislature. 18-year old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson took up a second career—as a Broadway star—as her magazine Rookie rakes in 3.5 million hits a month. 17-year old Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Prize.

As most millennials are moving sluggishly through their twenties, the hyper-visible hotshots are getting younger and younger, whittling away at the maximum age limit at which someone can get their “big break.”

For every young cultural force like Lena Dunham or genius app-creator like Evan Spiegel, there are thousands of other twenty-somethings sitting in their parents’ basements wondering why they haven’t invented an app or started a fashion line. According to a Pew survey, young people today have more debt and less income than their parents and grandparents did at their age, which means we’re the least financially stable generation in recent memory. We’re are making life decisions later than ever, delaying marriage and babies longer than previous generations did (partly because of the cash flow problems), and taking much longer to settle into a career. Yet, thanks to platforms like Youtube and Kickstarter that remove the traditional gatekeepers, there’s a pervasive expectation that young people should be achieving more, faster, younger.

“There’s a lot of attention paid to people who have success very young, like Taylor Swift and Mark Zuckerberg, but the average young person is not coming into their career until later these days,” says Dr. Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me. “Across the board, what you can see is much higher expectations among millennials compared to Boomers and Gen Xers, but a reality which is if anything more difficult than it was for those previous generations when they were young.”

Middle-aged sourpusses have long complained about America’s cultural fixation on youth and to be fair, the Beatles weren’t much older than Taylor Swift. Bill Maher even devoted a whole segment of last Friday’s “Real Time” to ageism, calling it “the last acceptable prejudice in America.” But today, the world is dominated by tech, and tech is dominated by young people. “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a speech to a Y Combinator startup at Stanford in 2007. “Younger people are just smarter.”

But even for those of us who happen to be young, a youth-obsessed culture is a pretty raw deal. Because the perception that young people are “smarter” implies they should be getting successful more quickly, and often, they’re not. “In the internet age, the idea that fame is just out of reach has become more common,” says Dr. Twenge, noting that technological advances like YouTube helped launch careers of stars like Justin Bieber. “I think there’s an impression that it’s easier to become famous now, or easier to be discovered… There’s a perception that it’s easier, but that may not be entirely true.”

That expectation that it’s easy to get rich and famous may also contribute to some of the negative stereotypes about millennials, especially the reputation for laziness or entitlement. In other words, next to Lorde, the rest of us look like schlubs.

“I don’t think they’re comparing themselves to those wunderkind necessarily, but maybe their elders are, who are so critical of them,” says Dr. Jeffrey Arnett, who coined the phrase “emerging adult” and says he’s found little evidence to support the claim that millennials are lazy. “I wonder if that’s partly related to the fact that you have these amazingly successful young people, and people are saying ‘well, if Mark Zuckerberg can do this, why can’t you?’”

Of course, none of these comparisons are Taylor Swift’s fault, and she does everything in her power to nix that competitive instinct, especially among other women. But the fact that young superstars seem to have been born fully formed implies that growth and learning aren’t part of the recipe for success. “It not only tells them they don’t have time to grow, it saps them of the motivation to grow,” Dr. Dweck says.

Even Taylor recognizes that her darling days are numbered. “I just struggle to find a woman in music who hasn’t been completely picked apart by the media, or scrutinized and criticized for aging, or criticized for fighting aging,” she said. “It just seems to be much more difficult to be a woman in music and to grow older.”

When politicians proclaim that “young people are the future,” they mean we’ll inherit mountains of debt and a destroyed environment. But when young people think about our own futures, we should look at the way middle-aged and older people are treated—because like it or not, that’s going to be us one day. If young people were really so smart, we wouldn’t forget that.

Read next: The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram

TIME psychology

Are You Only as Young as You Feel?

Baby thought bubble
Jamie Grill—Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

In her book Counterclockwise, Harvard professor Ellen Langer recounts a groundbreaking study she did in 1979 that has since become the stuff of legend.

She took a group of male research subjects in their 70s and 80s on a retreat. The environment had been manipulated to make it seem as if it were 20 years prior.

The residents were all aware of the real year, but being immersed in the world of 1959 and encouraged to act as if they were younger men had powerful effects on them:

The experimental group showed greater improvement on joint flexibility, finger length (their arthritis diminished, and they were able to straighten their fingers more) and manual dexterity. On intelligence tests, 63% of the experimental group improved their scores, compared to only 44% of the control group. There were also improvements in height, weight, gait and posture. Finally, we asked people unaware of the study’s purpose to compare photos taken of the participants at the end of the week with those submitted at the beginning of the study. Those objective observers judged that all of the experimental participants looked noticeably younger at the end of the study.

Other research shows that people who held positive beliefs about getting older lived 7.5 years longer and were healthier.

Women who dye their hair not only report feeling younger, but also their blood pressure drops and they are rated as looking younger in photosphotos where their hair is cropped out.

“Will to live” has been shown to make a difference in when you die.

Langer cites studies showing that women with younger spouses live longer and those with older spouses die younger. How we think about aging affects how we age:

The psychologist Bernice Neugarten suggested that we are deeply influenced by “social clocks” that we gauge our lives by the implicit belief that is a “right age” for certain behaviors or attitudes.

Our mind may have more control over our body than we think. Processes we long believed to be out of our control, like heart rate and blood pressure, proved not to be.

Via Counterclockwise:

In 1961, Yale psychologist Neal Miller suggested that the autonomic nervous system, which controls blood pressure and heart rate, could be trained just like a voluntary system, which allows us to raise and lower our arm and other deliberate acts. His suggestion was met with a great deal of skepticism. Everyone knew that the autonomic nervous system was just that, autonomous and beyond our control. Yet his subsequent work on biofeedback — which makes autonomic processes such as heart rate visible by hooking people up to monitors — found that people could be taught to control them.

Radiolab did an amazing piece explaining how exhaustion is more in the mind than the body and how athletes manipulate this to complete marathons and Ironman competitions.

How strong is the power of belief in our lives? Can we make our lives better by changing what we believe?

Placebo Effect

We’ve all heard of the placebo effect. If I give you a sugar pill and tell you it’ll improve X, X often improves just because you believe the pill is working.

The placebo effect means that voodoo curses really can kill you, Axe body spray can make men sexier, and fake steroids can make you stronger. What’s truly amazing is that the placebo effect can work even when you know it’s a placebo.

The placebo effect might even have a role in exercise and health. Four weeks after being told their efforts at work qualified as exercise, female research subjects had lost weight and were healthier compared with a control group. Researchers speculate that believing something is exercise may make it have the results of exercise.

In Counterclockwise Langer cites studies that showed that when a medical therapy was believed in, it was 70% to 90% effective but only 30% to 40% effective when the patient was skeptical. Subjects exposed to fake poison ivy developed rashes, and fake caffeine spiked heart rate and motor performance.

Priming

Priming is when you’re unconsciously influenced by a concept and it affects how you behave.

There has been a torrent of priming studies in recent years showing just how much words and ideas in our environment can affect how we act:

And these aren’t just theoretical. They can be used to improve performance.

Being primed to feel happy before a challenge can make us perform better. Thinking about college professors before a test can get you a better grade.

Overconfidence

I’ve posted before about the multitude of benefits a little delusion can offer:

Optimism

Just believing you can become smarter and can become a better negotiator have both been shown to increase improvement.

Optimism is associated with better health and a longer life. It can make you happier. The Army teaches soldiers to be optimistic because it makes them tougher and more resourceful. Hope predicts academic achievement better than intelligence, personality or previous grades.

Being socially optimistic — expecting people to like you — makes people like you more. Expecting a positive outcome from negotiations made groups more likely to come to a deal and to be happy with it.

Dangers of Too Much Belief

Being totally delusional, paranoid or believing in things that are patently untrue is obviously not good. I’m not recommending that.

Optimism can blind us. The happiest people and the most trusting people both had suboptimal outcomes. Those who think they have the most willpower are actually the most likely to give in to temptation. The reason you can predict your friends’ behavior better than they can is that we are all realistic about others’ actions and optimistic about our own. Some priming studies have been disputed.

Recommendations

So what can we do to improve our lives with belief? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Manipulate your context to feel younger and feel better. You don’t need to make it look like 1959, but don’t act as if your surroundings don’t matter.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Early intervention for young people could halt schizophrenia before it starts.

By Amy Standen at National Public Radio

2. Next generation air traffic control management can reduce delays and frustration at the airport.

By Aaron Dubrow at the National Science Foundation

3. Alabama prisons are at 190% capacity. Sentencing reforms are slowing prison population growth, but much work remains.

By Kala Kachmar in the Montgomery Advertiser

4. In the five weeks remaining under the deadline, the U.S. and Iran can reach a historic accord on nuclear arms.

By Joe Cirincione in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

5. For the peaceful coexistence of bicycles and everyone else in a city, we can learn a lot from Copenhagen.

By Mikael Colville-Andersen in the Guardian

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Hong Kong

The Voice of a Generation

Joshua Wong and his fellow students have triggered a youthquake that’s shaking up Hong Kong

Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

Joshua Wong does not want to grow up. He’s a Hong Kong kid and that’s why, just before midnight on Oct. 6, he and his girlfriend (and his girlfriend’s friend, because teenagers travel in packs) have ducked into a barbecue joint in the working-class neighborhood of Mongkok to feast on grilled scallions, roasted pineapple and Chinese egg noodles bathed in cheese and garlic—a classic Hong Kong fusion dish. Wong, who turns 18 this month, sucks down the pasta with one hand and checks his smartphone with the other. Slurp, swipe, slurp, swipe.

The clatter of Cantonese rattles around the restaurant. An overhead TV displays images of the student-led protest movement that has occupied key commercial districts of Hong Kong, highlighting the dilemma of a hybrid city reared on democratic ideals but ruled by an authoritarian China. No one in the eatery, though, pays much attention to the news. This kind of place—fluorescent-lit, Formica-clad, Hong Kong soul food of the cheesiest, noodliest variety—is why Wong, one of the organizers of the protest campaign, says he will never leave his home city, why he, like Peter Pan, never wants to become that most disdainful of species: an adult. “The future will not be decided by adults,” says Wong. “I would like to ask adults, people with capital and power, Why are they not fighting for democracy?”

(PHOTOS: A New Generation Speaks: See Inside Hong Kong’s Protests)

If Wong is wary of adulthood, his beloved home, Hong Kong, is also suspended in adolescence. The city may be the financial heart of the world’s most dynamic region, a collection of 7.2 million people for whom pragmatism and efficiency are a guiding faith. But since its inception as a tiny fishing port plundered by the British from the enfeebled Qing dynasty in the mid–19th century, to the colony’s hand­over back to China in 1997, Hong Kong has never been permitted political maturity. It was always a pawn of empire.

When Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty, the former Crown Colony was given a 50-year adjustment period to mainland rule. The “one country, two systems” policy guaranteed the territory a “high degree of autonomy” from Beijing on most everything but security matters. In 33 years’ time, though, the city will revert to full Chinese governance. Little Hong Kong will be forced to grow up and merge with the masses.

The trajectory toward 2047 is particularly troubling for Hong Kong youth, who will inherit this new political reality. Already, many locals worry that China’s communist rulers are eroding the freedoms—like an independent judiciary and an open press—that differentiate the city from the rest of China. Beijing’s recently announced plan to prevent Hong Kong from freely electing its chief executive galvanized the first batch of protesters who crowded the city’s downtown in late September. But it was the overreaction to this display of civil disobedience—sprays of tear gas from the police and outright thuggery from elements of Hong Kong’s underworld—that led tens of thousands to occupy more streets, a spontaneous, sympathetic outpouring no one, least of all Wong, expected. Umbrellas, unfurled by students against the pepper spray, turned into the movement’s symbol. Hong Kong’s very public struggle now ranks as China’s most consequential protest since the 1989 pro-democracy rallies were crushed at Tiananmen—and young Hong Kong residents have provided the crusade with both its population and its passion.

The student-led siege of prime Hong Kong property is not going to suddenly transform the territory into a full-fledged democracy—certainly not if the Chinese Communist Party remains in power on the mainland. As a government ultimatum to clear the streets expired without incident on Oct. 6, the urge for solidarity against the authorities faded; protest numbers have waned. Nevertheless, the events of the past few weeks have awakened a political consciousness that few, even in the city itself, knew they possessed. Their idealism, not to mention their organizational acumen and communal spirit, is exactly what threatens China’s rulers, who, from the heady days of Tiananmen and further back in the country’s history, know well the transformative potential of students on the streets.

Teen Icon

It was past 1 a.m. on Oct. 2, and the throngs gathered outside Hong Kong’s government headquarters in Admiralty district were starting to dissipate. Protesters had spent days camped on an overpass, sleeping curled around their backpacks, subsisting on crackers and KFC. Throughout the campaign, some had been pepper-sprayed and soaked by rain. The air was growing thick again, and restlessness had set in.

As a light mist fell, word spread: Joshua Wong—who on Sept. 26 was arrested for trespassing and spent 46 hours in detention for the students’ initial occupation—was about to speak. Many in the crowd raised their phones to capture the moment. With his bowl-cut bangs, sparse stubble and thick-framed spectacles, Wong looks like any other nerdy kid in a society where nearly half of youngsters wear glasses. His delivery at the makeshift podium set in the shelter of a pedestrian bridge came in confident, quick-fire Cantonese. The fight for full democracy is not over, he told protesters. “Stay,” he said. They did.

Off the podium, Wong is polite, prone to bringing his hands together in a penitent clasp. He was raised in a Christian family that dispatched him to rural China for volunteer teaching; some of his fellow student activists are friends from church. In 2011, when he was just 14 years old, Wong formed a group of students in Hong Kong called Scholarism to stop the territory from implementing a mainland-designed “national education” policy that ignored the Tiananmen massacre and pushed fealty to the Chinese Communist Party. After 100,000 people joined his 2012 street rally, the Hong Kong government backed off.

Wong had taken on Hong Kong’s bosses in Beijing—and notched a rare victory. Local celebrity followed, with breaking-news reports on his (mediocre) college-entrance examination results. Despite the attention usually reserved for Canto-pop heartthrobs, Wong lacks physical presence. His shoulders are hunched in the kind of phone-tethered posture that annoys mothers everywhere. Yet his rhetoric, often delivered with eyes squeezed shut, is unequivocal. “I don’t want to follow the games of adults,” he says, “handing out business cards that you’ll just put in the rubbish bin, chit-chat. Political reform is not going to come from going to meetings … We had to do radical action because our leaders did nothing.”

Wong has a girlfriend named Tiffany and thumbs picked raw from stress. He wishes he had more time to play mobile-phone games and displays no overriding affection for any particular book. Despite the command his speeches claim over the protesters, Wong says he has no wish to serve as an icon and is still shocked that his arrest last month galvanized so many to join the cause. He doesn’t have any heroes himself, neither Mahatma Gandhi nor Wang Dan, the Beijing university student whose leadership of the Tiananmen pro-democracy struggle made him “enemy No. 1” to the Chinese government. To Wong, the leaderless nature of the territory’s democracy movement is a strength, not a weakness. “If Hong Kong just relies on me,” he says, “the movement will fail.”

Generation Gap

Compared with their peers in mainland China, Hong Kong’s youth are wealthier, healthier and have access to social media like Facebook and Twitter that are blocked by Chinese censors. Wong is often asked if his parents are activists; they are not. There’s an assumption there must be something unusual about his upbringing, beyond his Protestant faith, that makes him care. “People think that every night we were talking about how the government was violating democratic principles,” he says. “[My parents] just gave me the freedom to do what I want.”

Such liberty in China is unique to Hong Kong, and the city’s prospects depend on the whims of a Communist Party led by a President, Xi Jinping, who has shown little tolerance for dissent. Even the local economy is not immune to jitters about the future, especially as worries proliferate that Hong Kong’s reputation for clean governance is being compromised by Communist Party politics. Hong Kong has long thrived as a conduit for foreign investors to China, but growth is slowing, chiefly because of sliding exports. “If Hong Kong is so obviously becoming just another mainland city, why not set up one’s regional headquarters in Beijing or Shanghai?” asks Carsten Holz, an economics professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Income inequality has surged since 1997 and now ranks as the highest in the developed world. The fertility rate is so low that the local population cannot sustain itself. Instead, an influx of mainland Chinese—40.7 million visited last year—has brought with it a flood of new wealth that has made Hong Kong’s homes the least affordable in the world, yet also the smallest, according to one housing survey. “We don’t see good prospects for our future,” says Katie Lo, 21, a university student.

Proud of their heritage—the Cantonese language instead of the Mandarin spoken on the mainland, for instance—locals fear a cultural and economic invasion from the north. “Stand on Canton Road,” frets legislator Claudia Mo, speaking of a major Hong Kong thoroughfare, “and you’ll hardly hear any Cantonese.” Mandarin has eclipsed English as the city’s second language. For her own part, Mo speaks very upper-class British English. She comes from a coastal mainland Chinese family that fled the communists and came to Hong Kong. But like many of her peers, she identifies as a Hong Konger first, global citizen second and a resident of the People’s Republic a distant third.

There’s plenty of chauvinism toward mainlanders in Hong Kong. A nasty local phrase labels them “locusts.” For all the hope that Hong Kong’s struggle might catalyze a similar awakening in the rest of China, where dissent usually earns activists jail terms, many Hong Kong students’ concerns are locally cocooned. “Hong Kong people want to protect our freedoms,” says Hiu Wah, a 19-year-old early-childhood education student. “I am not interested in changing Chinese politics.”

While Britain extended rule of law to its colony, it kept the populace all but disenfranchised. Since the 1997 handover, China has provided the territory with a string of proxies for its chief executive, the latest being the widely unpopular Leung Chun-ying. Hong Kong still boasts competent civil servants and veteran democracy legislators, with their crisp British accents and posh overseas degrees. But the youth at the barricades defending the protest sites wonder what all that conventional activism has done to change Hong Kong’s political predicament. “People always say to me, ‘Oh, if you want to change the world, first you need to go to university, then work as a government administrator or a businessman, then you can make policies,’” says Wong. “No, to affect the world, you go to the streets.”

Backlash

Movements need great men and women, and practical ones too. Already the protests have lost momentum, as the crowds thin. By the night of Oct. 7, no more than a couple thousand people milled around the main occupied zone in Admiralty district, well below the tens of thousands days earlier. So much energy has gone into figuring out how to get the protesters off the streets—endless talk about talking with the government, in addition to the actual talking—rather than figuring out how to turn this movement into practical policy that Beijing might consider. The protest leaders have declined to invite opposition politicians, who are well practiced at negotiating with the central government, into their movement. The same organizational and factional dysfunction that has beset protest movements around the world may undercut the Hong Kong campaign too. “They want to do it on their own,” says Emily Lau, head of the Democratic Party. “But why alienate pan-democrat legislators? Our goals are the same.”

Even for Hong Kong residents who support the students’ ideals, the lengthy shutdown of major roads and neighborhoods is a significant inconvenience. Paul Zimmerman, a district councillor who pointedly carried an umbrella to an official ceremony marking China’s National Day on Oct. 1, says it’s time to withdraw. “You’ve given people a voice,” he says, “now you give them the street back.”

Wong isn’t bothered. “You need to create the rules yourself,” he says. “Students have more time, more energy, so they should stand on the front lines.” Whenever Wong is spotted shuffling through any of the protest sites, he’s mobbed by dozens of news cameras and fans requesting snapshots with him. Hollywood actors might be used to the attention, but Wong is a student who, as he likes to point out, attends the ninth-ranked of nine universities in Hong Kong. (He is studying politics and public administration.) The attention, all those demands to explain his political philosophy and smile for selfies, is exhausting.

No wonder Wong is sometimes most comfortable going underground, literally. As he hops onto the subway, almost no one recognizes him. He’s just another teenager, swaying as the train tunnels under Hong Kong’s harbor, updating his Facebook page and WhatsApping madly. Three friends, also in Scholarism, stand next to him, absorbed in their own online lives. Barely a few seconds go by without frantic swiping. “Taking action is more meaningful than words,” says Wong. He dismisses planned negotiations with the authorities as “just an opportunity to show our anger to the government.” Inevitably, his head soon bends over his phone again, just a lone Hong Kong kid connecting with the world.

With reporting by Elizabeth Barber, Rishi Iyengar, Nash Jenkins and David Stout / Hong Kong

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 2

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. A global competition could prime the pump for development of disease-fighting treatments.

By James Surowiecki in New Yorker

2. Cancer detecting yogurt? New technology could make diagnosing colon cancer as simple as taking a pregnancy test.

By Kevin Bullis at the MIT Technology Review

3. Youth-targeted networks are leading a surge in LGBT-friendly television programming.

By Joanna Robinson in Vanity Fair

4. California’s massive expansion of teledentistry could revolutionize delivery of oral hygiene to underserved areas.

By Daniela Hernandez in Kaiser Health News

5. The climate change movement desperately needs diversity and corporate leadership.

By Caitlin Colegrove in conversation with M. Sanjayan in the Aspen Idea

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME cities

Baltimore Tightens Curfew Amid Skepticism and Protests

Protesters demonstrate before community meeting with city officials about new youth curfew legislation in Baltimore
Protesters demonstrate before a community meeting with city officials about new youth curfew legislation going into effect on August 8 at the University of Baltimore Law Center in Baltimore, July 29, 2014. James Lawler Duggan—Reuters

Most major cities have curfew policies, but experts doubt their effectiveness

A Baltimore measure tightening its curfew policy to make it among the most stringent in the United States went into effect Friday amid protests and uproar. But even as a majority of the biggest cities across the country—including nine out of the 10 most populated—maintain curfew policies, experts say such efforts are ineffective at best and that they harm communities at worst.

“It’s just a waste of resources,” said Marie Williams, Executive Director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. “It doesn’t reduce crime. It doesn’t make communities safer. In fact what it might do is contribute to the negative relationship between law enforcement and the communities they’re looking to serve.”

Kenneth Reynolds, a University of Central Florida professor who studied the issue, said the problem is two-fold: the ability to enforce the policy and its overall effectiveness.

“Curfews sounds good but the devil is in the details,” Reynolds said. “When it comes down to a continual enforcement of that policy, most police departments don’t have the resources. And once it’s enforced it’s not very effective.”

Large cities, the types that might benefit from a curfew, don’t have the resources to actually patrol the entire city. Instead, they focus on particular neighborhoods, often leading to racial disparities in enforcement of the curfew, experts say. But even in the neighborhoods they do patrol, opponents the policies are ineffective. During field research in New Orleans, Reynolds found that youth would often just wait for police to depart and then return to the streets.

And most crimes committed by young people occur between the hours of 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., right after school lets out, according to Laura Furr, a researcher at the National League of Cities.

“Responses to youth crime that are just enforcement response do not address the needs of the youth that are causing the negative behavior,” she said.

Furr, along with groups like the Coalition of Juvenile Justice, advocate for approaches that tend to focus more on involving community members than having the police penalize just being outside.

Some see the problem with curfews as even more heinous. The Maryland branch of the American Civil Liberties Union suggested the curfew might lead to the criminalization of youth and “the use of force.”

“There is real fear that, by giving police officers unfettered discretion to stop any young-looking person after 9 pm and demand ID, this law will devolve into stop-and-frisk for kids, or worse,” said Maryland ACLU staff attorney Sonia Kumar in a statement.

But Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake defends the policy adamantly. She says it’s about protecting young people from the dangers of the streets, rather than keeping them from committing crimes of their own.

“There were far too many kids who were out there that there was need,” she said. “We share the view that we don’t have a spare child.”

The policy requires children under 14 to be off the streets by 9 p.m. Children between 14 and 16 have until 10 p.m. during the school week and 11 p.m. on weekends and during the summer.

In pushing the curfew law, Rawlings-Blake emphasizes what the city calls Youth Connections Centers. In the centers, staffers will try to connect curfew violators with the appropriate social service providers. It’s a positive approach that doesn’t criminalize youth, she says.

Judging by the protests and outcry the new curfew has prompted, many locals disagree. Demonstrations have arisen across the city, and protestors have interrupted official meetings to contest what they say is a draconian law.

Rawlings-Blake said that despite the protesters, the majority of the city is on her side.

In Baltimore, she said, it’s about “connecting vulnerable families with the resources they need.” She deflected when asked about other cities and broad critiques of curfew policies.

And while researchers have criticized curfew policies broadly, they acknowledge such measures play out differently in different places.

“In some communities, you might be able to enforce it,” Reynolds said. “It’s very hard to generalize.”

TIME Opinion

Stop Telling Women Their Most Valuable Asset Is Their Youth

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MmeEmil—Getty Images/Vetta

Why, in an era when we are succeeding in so many ways, do we buy into sexist tropes about aging?

Last week, I wrote a column about​ millennials and​ beta-marriages: ​young people, like me, who want to beta-test their relationships before they commit to “forever” — by way of temporary marriage contracts. It led to an interesting response,​ in particular,​ from a five-times married, ​71-year-old ​television host who posts semi-nude selfies on the internet.

Appearing on FOX to discuss the piece, Geraldo Rivera noted, to stunned female hosts, that what a woman brings to a marriage “more than anything else” is “her youth.”

Her youth?

Yes, “her youth,​” ​Geraldo continued. Because a woman’s youth, he explained, “is a fragile and diminishing resource.”

Geraldo’s logic went like this: If a woman were to invest two precious years into ​a beta-marriage, and then, God forbid, have her man reject her (his words, not mine), she’ll have wasted her most valuable asset. The thing that is, obviously, going to determine not just whether a woman will have a family, but whether she’ll have a husband, and live happily ever after, at all.

I spent all week trying to ignore that comment. Honestly, who gives a ​sh-t about Geraldo Rivera? And yet I couldn’t get it out of my head. Like the ticking of that clock, I kept hearing it, reading about it, stumbling on it everywhere I turned: Your youth. Your youth. Your youth.

Women have been hearing this argument since the dawn of time. And since the dawn of time, part of it has been true (youth means fertility). But Geraldo’s sin was not simply that what he said was impolitic. It’s that he put bluntly one of the most insidious and persistent smears: that women come with an expiration date.

​It’s a concept that is still pounded into us at every turn, from media to pop culture–and not just by septuagenarian TV personalities. It is there, almost tauntingly, in a recent article in Esquire, which seemed to bask in its own generosity by proclaiming that a woman could still be hot at 42–as if that were a reason to reconsider their value. It’s there in the endless media blitz by Susan Patton, the “Princeton Mom,” who’s managed to create a “mini empire,“as Salon recently put it, from “one crazy op-ed” about how women need to hurry up and find a man.

I’m 32 (though I’m always tempted to shave a year or two from that number). I’m surrounded by other unmarried women in their 30s ​who are ambitious, career-driven, attractive.Intellectually, we know that the longer we wait to ​settle down, the more likely our relationships will be successful. (We’ve read the studies.) And we know that when we do decide to tie the knot, we’re going to bring a whole lot ​of benefits to ​the relationships – things like ​advanced ​education and ​money-earning​ potential​ — ​that would have been inconceivable even a generation ago.

​We also know we’re going to do all of this while slathering our faces with anti-aging cream. Pricking our smile-lines with Botox. Lying about our ages.​ ​And cleaning up after everyone in the house (even ​breadwinning wives still do the majority of chores).​ And on some strange level, we’ve accepted it.

The thing is, reality no longer conforms to those old tropes. Women now get the majority of college degrees. We have careers. We are living longer than ever. We can freeze our eggs to buy us biological time.

And yet our conception of what makes a woman desirable and valuable in society hasn’t caught up. From every angle, we continue to hear that we need to “rush.” That we should make it easier and more comfortable for the men around us. That our youth — not necessarily even our fertility — is our most valuable asset.

And as if that wasn’t already our worst fear, we have people like Geraldo hammering that home.

On Tuesday, while this story went viral, my 33-year-old friend was having her eggs frozen, then tearfully coming over to my house, bloated and emotional, worried she hadn’t bought herself enough time.

On Wednesday, I had a half-hour conversation with another friend, about how many years she was allowed to shave off of an online dating profile​ — because, she feared, nobody would want to date a woman over 30.

On Thursday, I cried to my therapist, about the clock that was ticking in my head. “​But is it really even your clock?” she asked. “Or is it just the pressure you feel from everybody else?”

The youthfulness we’re chasing is not about biology, and it’s not solvable by science. It’s a cultural message. And we need to stop listening to it.

So thanks for the reminder, Geraldo — but I’d rather not listen. Here’s hoping that the fifth time’s the charm.

If not, there’s always the beta-marriage.

 

TIME

Libertarian Student Activists Rally at National Convention

White House contender Rand Paul revved up the youthful crowd, asking "Anybody here from the 'Leave Me Alone' coalition? How about the 'Leave Me The Hell Alone' coalition?”

A crowd of college kids screamed and cheered, belting out chants and pumping their fists. The energy in the room was palpable. Some craned their necks to get a better view and others nudged their friends in excitement. The kids weren’t waiting for a rock concert to start or a celebrity to walk across the stage. They were waiting for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) to kick off the annual Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) National Convention in Washington, D.C.

Almost 300 student activists for YAL traveled from around the country to convene for a five-day convention filled with talks about liberty and appearances by prominent libertarian leaders. The convention kicked off Wednesday evening with an address by Sen. Rand Paul followed by a House of Representatives panel, featuring six members of the House Liberty Caucus.

“Anybody here from the leave me alone coalition? How about the leave me the hell alone coalition?” Paul asked the room to a response of cheers. “Some people are writing and saying there’s a libertarian moment in our country right now.”

Speakers went on to talk about key libertarian party principles of personal and economic liberty, then touch on hot button issues for millennials, including the NSA, social security and the legalization of marijuana. The panel’s six congressional leaders detailed their personal journeys in politics and offered advice to the budding libertarian leaders. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky) urged the student activists to “find more of you” and Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) told students to “be willing to lose.”

The discussion was more than just an advice session for aspiring college students. It was also a clear call for young people to help broadcast the Libertarian message and to recruit more of their peers to join the party.

“I keep reminding my Republican colleagues that if you want to continue to have a bunch of old people with old ideas in the Republican Party, we will no longer have a vibrant party,” Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Wisc.) said at the panel on Wednesday. “If we can invite young people that will actually bring new ideas and will bring energy to the party then we will be the dominant party in the United States.”

TIME human behavior

4 in 10 Teens Admit Texting While Driving

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found kids are still engaging in a range of risky behaviors, despite a reported drop in cigarette use.

Today’s teens are distracted behind the wheel, according to a new survey. Though they aren’t smoking cigarettes in high rates, or regularly driving drunk, about 41% of America’s driving teens reported that they had texted or emailed while driving.

This is in spite of the often horrifying commercials and campaigns aimed at keeping teen drivers’ eyes on the road while behind the wheel. The findings, published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey, are especially daunting given the fact that the bulk of teen deaths are the result of motor vehicle crashes.

But texting and driving isn’t the only risky business teens are engaging in. Though teens aren’t watching as much TV as they were in 1999, more are using the computer for longer periods of time. About 41.3% said they’re using computers for more than 3 hours a day, up from 31.1% in 2011. About 14.8% of students said they had been bullied online, compared to 19.8% who had been bullied at school.

And sitting in front of screen does little to help the nearly 21% of adolescents considered obese.

Another risk that should have parents worried: sexually active teens are using condoms a bit less than they have in the past. About 47% of students said they had ever had sex, but of the 34% of teens that are sexually active, only about 59% are using condoms, down from 63% in 2003.

The annual survey of a nationally representative sample of ninth through 12th graders in the U.S. examines the unhealthy behaviors teens have engaged in over the past 12 months to gage what leads to the unintentional injury, obesity, and unplanned pregnancy within the group. About 13,500 surveys, which were administered at public and private high schools, were examined to determine results.

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