Millennials have gotten their share of bad press, so it’s good to see them receive a bit of praise in an article by the sage of American politics, Michael Barone. Citing statistics to buttress his case, Barone writes that “the most crime-prone age and gender cohort — 15-to-25-year-old males — are committing far fewer crimes than that cohort did in 1990.”

  • In the past two decades, the murder rate fell 49%, forcible rape fell 33%, robbery rate fell 48%, and aggravated assault fell 39%.
  • Sexual assaults against 12-to-17-year-olds fell by more than half.
  • Violent victimization of teenagers at school declined 60%.
  • Binge-drinking in high school is lower than at any time since 1976, and sexual intercourse among 9th graders has declined.
  • A recent Justice Department report showed the rape rate on college campuses was 0.6%.
  • While unmarried parenthood has risen, teen births have been in sharp decline. The latest statistics tell us that birth rates are, unusually, up among married women and down among unmarried women.

Barone theorizes why this trend might be happening:

I think what we are seeing is a mass changing of minds, something like the movement in Victorian England toward what historian Gertrude Himmelfarb described as "the morality that dignifies and civilizes human beings."

My theory is that young people do what is expected of them, in two senses of the word "expected." One is statistical expectation. Americans in 1990 expected young people, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, to commit lots of crimes. They had been doing so, after all, for 25 years. But Rudy Giuliani and others adapting his methods reduced crime dramatically, and statistical expectations rapidly changed.

The other sense of the word "expected" is moral expectation. A parent tells a boy he is expected not to shoplift, bully, rob, rape or kill. She tells a girl she is expected not to sleep around or get pregnant. The parents of the last 25 years grew up in years of high crime, high divorce and high unmarried births. Evidently they wanted — expected — something better from their own children.

Read his full article, Are Today’s Millennials a New Victorian Generation? at the Washington Examiner.