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Thursday, March 26, 2009

1959 or 2009- Were we a 'better' nation then?

While reading Leonard Pitts' latest column on hate in America I came across an interesting response by one of the readers. The reader commented that things were much better in the 1950's when "the 10 Commandments were on the school walls" and that there was no need for policemen to patrol schools and that crime was much worse today.
A friend recently posed this same thought to me during a debate we were having on liberal vs. conservative values. He was sure that rates of abortion, STD's and viloent crime were much lower in the 'family values' era of the 1950's tah during modern times.
Oh really? Let's see...

Abortion rates will be hard to track due to abortions being illegal until 1970's.
But I found this study from last year:
The U.S. abortion rate has fallen to its lowest level since 1976, with about 20 percent of pregnancies being terminated by abortion, the nonprofit Alan Guttmacher Institute reported on Thursday.
Its survey of all known abortion providers found the abortion rate fell 9 percent between 2000 and 2005, probably due to a combination of better access to contraception and less access to abortion providers, the group said.

Teen pregnancy:

The teenage birth rate in the United States is the highest in the developed world, and the teenage abortion rate is also high.[3] The U.S. teenage pregnancy rate was at a high in the 1950s and has decreased since then, although there has been an increase in births out of wedlock.[13] The teenage pregnancy rate decreased significantly in the 1990
Even though we can't track abortions as easily I think it is safe to say that if teen pregnancy has decreased than abortion has followed a similar trend- you can't abort it you are not pregnant.
Also- teen pregnancy is now at a 15 year high thanks to 'abstinence only' sex education.


The suicide rate has decreased from the 1950-1980 rate of 13.2 to the present rate of about 11.
The suicide rate for ages 5-24 (youth suicide) increased dramatically from 1950 to the early to mid 1990s but then began to decrease thereafter.
The suicide rate for ages 45-85+ decreased significantly from 1950 to present.
Divorce rates have gone up but remember- until the late 1960's and into the 1970's it was illegal to use birth control in many states and it was still legal to rape your wife. Once women were seen as human beings rather than property owned by their husband I'm sure it was easier to leave abusive husbands behind. Oh, and in many cases women could not get credit or loans or were otherwise not taken seriously in the financial world if they were single. Once woman did not have to rely on men to survive I'm sure the divorce rate climbed. As it should. You shouldn't have to marry someone to survive so I see that as a good thing.

According to this table Cases of sexually transmitted diseases reported by state health departments and rates per 100,000 population: United States, 1941–2007 from the CDC in 1941 syphilis was at 362 cases per 100,000 and in 2007 it was at 13 per 100,00. Gonorrhea was at 146/100,000 in 1941 and in 2007 it was at 118/100,000. There is no record of Chlamydia until 1984 but it did increase from 6.5/100,000 to over 300/100,000. But that could be due to better screening in recent years rather than an actual increase in the disease because chlamydia is known as the 'silent' disease and can go undetected with no symptoms.
So there has been a decrease in STD's.

Violent Crime/Gang violence:
From the US DOJ:

Since 1994 violent crime rates have declined, reaching the lowest level ever in 2005.

Teen rape:

So yeah, the next time someone waxes nostalgic about 'the good old days' direct them here and they can see just how good those days weren't. Except for music. I'll take music from the '50's and 60's any day over the crap on the radio today.
I mean really, no one does stuff like this anymore:
The Sonics:

The Kinks

The Beach Boys:

Archie Bell and the Drells: