How Do Today's Teens Compare To Their '80s Counterparts? [Infographic]

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I let nostalgia take over yesterday, when I posted some Encyclopedia Britannica commercials from the '80s and '90s. Those poor kids were always having to walk to the library, just to get information for school reports. One of my favorite lines from the commercials comes when the kid enumerates the many new devices his parents bought him: “They bought me a computer, a video camera, a compact disc player, but … hardly any of this stuff can really help me with me schoolwork.” What could help, though, was a Britannica set, touted then as "your key to the information age."

Nowadays, the door to the information age has been left unlocked for us, and it feels like the way we live is changing drastically every couple of years. My way of life today feels a far cry different from the way it was ten years ago, or even five. But no demographic is a better representative of the times than an era's teenagers, whose behaviors and spending patterns have not yet started to fossilize. You may shudder at the thought, but the teens you know are giving you a glimpse of what will be normal over the next generation. Hopefully without the hormones. And a comparison of the way teens were a generation ago can really help you visualize how dynamic of a time we live in.

Here's an infographic from that shows us what teens were like back in 1982, and how today's teens compare:


Note the correlation between a more than doubling of students enrolled in Spanish courses, and a more than tripling of the hispanic population in the country. We'll all be speaking some degree of Spanish by 2040, probably. It's interesting, too, that 21% more teens are gearing up for college, and SAT scores are (nominally) higher, but high school graduation rates have actually declined.

At least working teens have doubled their earnings. Or have they? Adjusted for inflation, teens are making about five dollars less a week than they were thirty years ago.

Despite all the changes, one thing will always be true of teens. They'll always have deep, complicated emotions -- "that nobody in the world can understand." Especially you, Mom and Dad.

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