Age


Pew has a report up as part of their Millennials coverage providing data on teens and sexting. They report:

  • 4% of cell-owning teens ages 12-17 say they have sent sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of themselves to someone else via text messaging.
  • 15% of cell-owning teens ages 12-17 say they have received sexually suggestive nude or nearly nude images of someone they know via text messaging on their cell phone.

In addition, they provide statistics on teens and cell phone trends. They find, for example, that, as of 2009, 58% of 12 year-olds own a cell phone, an increase from 18% in 2004.

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Pew has a report up on the percentage of young adults moving back home: “Home for the Holidays…and Every Other Day: Recession Brings Many Young Adults Back to the Nest.” According to the article:

To measure changes in household arrangements, the Pew Research survey asked all adults if they lived in their own home or with one or both parents in the parents’ home. The survey further asked all adults if they had moved back in with their parents “as a result of the recession.” Overall, about 11% of all adults 18 or older live with their parents in their home and 4% of all adults say they were forced to move back with their parents because of the recession, a proportion that rises to 10% among those ages 18 to 34.

The full report, including data on the percentages of young people living alone, is available here.

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I argued in an earlier post that the age group (or cohort) into which you are born shapes your tastes and preferences. Pew has the results of an interesting study about the “generation gap” that takes a look at how music preferences vary by age group. They found:

Popularity_of_Music_Performers_-_by_age_of_respondent

While there are some groups that seem to transcend age categories (especially The Beatles), there are significant differences as well. While those who are 65 and older really like Frank Sinatra he doesn’t do as well among the younger group. On the other hand, the older group, however, doesn’t seem to particularly like Kanye West or Nirvana.

One of the things that would have been interesting was to include more groups/individuals that the youngest age category “likes a lot” to see how they would have scored among the older age groups (including those in the middle). Note, for example, that  only 3 of those listed for the 16-29 age group score over 33%. The reason for this is that they selected top artists for various decades to get a sampling of various top acts across time.

The full report from which these data come, “Forty Years After Woodstock, a Gentler Generation Gap,” [pdf] is well worth a look. It considers much more than differences in musical taste, though it also looks at the relative popularity of various musical genres. It’s primary focus is on  the differing perspectives people have about the issue of a generation gap. It reports on  how values and perceptions of values vary across groups and more. It includes multiple tables and graphs. There is also a web-based summary here.

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As a follow-up to my “Generations” post about age, I thought I’d link to the following report.

PewResearchCenter has a report out on teens (age 12-17) and cell phone use (“More and More Teens on Cell Phones“). In terms of overall use they found:

The Pew Internet Project first began surveying teenagers about their mobile phones in its 2004 Teens and Parents project, when a survey showed that 45% of teens had a cell phone. Since that time, mobile phone use has climbed steadily among teens ages 12 to 17 — to 63% in fall of 2006 and to 71% in early 2008.

This 71% figure compares to 77% for all adults and 88% for parents. Looking at how the percentage varies among those teens they present the following graph:

So when my 12-year-old daughter tells me that most of her friends have cell phones, she is not far off (51% of 12-year-olds now do, up from 18% in 2004).

I also remember having a discussion in class last year about cell phones and hearing a certain resentment among older siblings that their younger brother/sister got a phone earlier than did they (something also supported by these data).

In addition to age, the report also shows use variation by income, race/ethnicity, and gender.

The full report, Teens and Mobile Phones Over the Past Five Years: Pew Internet Looks Back, [pdf] is also available online.

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It is the start of a new school year and, once again, I am another year older while the bulk of the first year students at my college are the same age they were last year and the year before that…. One of the most basic lessons we learn from sociology is that position matters. For example, the year we are born shapes our position in the age structure. Age (like all positional variables such as race, ethnicity, class and gender) shapes our opportunities and options. It even influences our interests, tastes, and preferences.

Each year Beloit College publishes the Mindset List, a report of ways in which the world has changed since most first-year college students were born. They do so as a reminder to faculty (and other college personnel) about how different the world might appear to a typical first year student. They suggest that the majority of first year students entering college in the fall of 2009 were born in 1991.

A few examples from their Mindset List for the Class of 2013:

  • Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream has always been a flavor choice.
  • Tattoos have always been very chic and highly visible.
  • Babies have always had a Social Security Number.
  • There has always been a Cartoon Network.
  • Women have always outnumbered men in college.
  • Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Latvia, Georgia, Lithuania, and Estonia have always been independent nations.

I can still remember (and it doesn’t seem that long ago) walking into my Intro to Sociology course and asking my students if any of them had heard of Harry Potter and not a single one had (I’d just read the first couple books straight through and really enjoyed them, but the series was not yet widely known in the U.S.). Now just a few years later my daughters can’t imagine a world in which neither the books nor the movies existed. My daughters take broadband Internet access for granted. They assume that we can watch movies on demand through Netflix. And they have a hard time understanding what it would have been like to live in a world without such things.

We all know this is true, yet we often underestimate the significance of its implications. Because we occupy different social positions, we live in different worlds. Sociology encourages us to take such differences seriously so that we might better understand ourselves and others and thus make more informed decisions about how to act and interact.

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The latest viral video comes from the TV show Britain’s Got Talent and it features Susan Boyle singing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables. Part of what makes it sociologically interesting is the response by the judges and audience. When she first appears, clearly they don’t expect much, but when she starts to belt it out, the shock on their faces is obvious and the applause is immediate. Why should they be so surprised? She doesn’t look the part:

(I see that YouTube is not allowing this video to be embedded. Just click on the the video above twice and it will take you to YouTube where you can still view it.)

An article from the Vancouver Sun, “Susan Boyle: Unemployed 47-year-old virgin becomes overnight music superstar,” describes her this way:

When 47-year-old small town spinster Susan Boyle stepped on to the stage of Britain’s Got Talent and announced she was unemployed, had never been married and “never been kissed, actually,” few in the audience would have wondered why. With unkempt hair and Leonid Breshnev eyebrows, and mention of her ten-year-old cat “Pebbles,” the Blackburn, Scotland lass resembled basically every other reality TV talent show timewaster who talks big and delivers nothing but personal humiliation on a national stage.

Another article about the performance from The Herald, titled “The beauty that matters is always on the inside,” describes the initial response this way:

The moment the reality show’s audience and judging panel saw the small, shy, middle-aged woman, they started to smirk. When she said she wanted a professional singing career to equal that of Elaine Paige, the camera showed audience members rolling their eyes in disbelief. They scoffed when she told Simon Cowell, one of the judges, how she’d reached her forties without managing to develop a singing career because she hadn’t had the opportunity. Another judge, Piers Morgan, later wrote on his blog that, just before she launched into I Dreamed a Dream, the 3000-strong audience in Glasgow was laughing and the three judges were suppressing chuckles.

The article goes on to ask why people responded this way, and her defiance of age and looks expectations are clear culprits:

The answer is that only the pretty are expected to achieve. Not only do you have to be physically appealing to deserve fame; it seems you now have to be good-looking to merit everyday common respect. If, like Susan (and like millions more), you are plump, middle-aged and too poor or too unworldly to follow fashion or have a good hairdresser, you are a non-person.

I think this video would make for interesting discussion regarding how our expectations regarding beauty and youth shape our judgments of others. Do we give people who are “young and beautiful” the benefit of the doubt? We say that beauty is only skin deep, but do we sometimes take it as an indicator for other talents? Might that result in lost opportunity for those who do not or cannot comply with such normative expectations? How might this be different for women versus men? And would the response to her performance be different had she been young and beautiful? Are people in essence giving her more credit because of her age and appearance as if to say, “Wow, look at what that old and average looking woman can do, who would have thought it possible”?

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