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Demography Roundup #9
Italy's young adult population share is now the lowest in Europe + new stats on crime and teen social media use.
#1: Italy’s young adult population is rapidly shrinking.
It’s no secret that Italy’s population is rapidly aging. But new figures from the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) truly put Italy’s youth dearth into perspective. Between 2002 and 2021, the number of 18- to 34-year-olds plummeted by three million people to 10.2M. That marks a -23% decline over the last 20 years. This is due to both declining fertility rates and a brain drain among young professionals.
ISTAT also reported that young adults only made up 17.5% of the total Italian population in 2021. That’s the lowest share of young adults in all of Europe. The E.U. average was +2.1 percentage points higher at 19.6% (2021). Moreover, the U.S. share was +5.6 percentage points higher at 23.1% (2021). The only Western nations close to Italy were also in Southern Europe: Greece at 18.1% and Spain at 18.2%.
This trend will negatively impact Italy’s quest to increase births. (See “Italy’s Baby Bonuses Go Local.”) Even if the total fertility rate increases significantly, the small number of women of childbearing age will put a low ceiling on the absolute number of children that could be born over the next couple of decades.
#2: According to the latest NCVS, violent crime increased significantly in 2022.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently released the 2022 results from the National Crime Victimization Survey. As we often remind our readers, this is the best tracker of nonfatal violent crimes in America. In our last crime update (see “Crime Rates: Are They Higher, Lower–or Both?”), we noted that the NCVS recorded a slight increase in violent crime from 2020 to 2021, but that crime remained below pre-pandemic levels due to a large decline from 2019 to 2020.
According to the latest data, violent crime is no longer below pre-pandemic levels. While it remains significantly below the levels seen in the 1990s, violent crime increased in 2022 to the point where it returned to a peak last seen in 2018. It rose in virtually every category (e.g., rape, aggravated assault, robbery, property crimes).
This news comes as a surprise given that the 2022 data from the Council of Criminal Justice, which we reported on, showed a decline in most violent crimes. The FBI also just released its 2022 crime report (based on an updated methodology that includes data from many more police departments than in 2021)—and it, too, shows a decline in violent crime (-1.6%).
What’s going on? While it’s common for the NCVS and FBI data to be slightly different given that they use distinct reporting methods, it is rare for them to differ this much. Given that the NCVS includes crimes that are not reported to the police, we tend to consider it the most comprehensive and trustworthy source of data. We will keep tracking this issue as more data are released.
#3: On average, U.S. teens spend nearly 5 hours on social media every day.
According to a new Gallup poll, over half of U.S. teenagers (ages 13-19) say they spend at least four hours a day on social media sites and apps such as TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. Overall, the average time spent per day is 4.8 hours. By age, 13-year-olds report spending the lowest average time at 4.1 hours and 17-year-olds the most at 5.8 hours.
Social media use among teens has crept up steadily over time. In Common Sense Media’s last “census” of youth media use in 2021, 13- to 18-year-olds reported spending an average of 2.8 hours per day on sites like Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. In 2019, this figure was 2.2 hours.
Teens whose parents “strongly agree” with restricting screen time—about a quarter of all parents—report using social media less. They average nearly 2.0 fewer hours (-1.8) on these apps and sites per day. Parents who are most likely to restrict screen time tend to be either (a) ideologically conservative or (b) very well-educated. We may infer that while red-zoners are most in favor of restricting screen time, there are plenty of blue-zoners with graduate degrees who also try to discourage their kids’ media use.
These figures will undoubtedly fuel further alarm among parents, educators, and policymakers who have long been concerned about the amount of time young people spend in front of screens. (See “Concern Over Teen Social Media Use is Growing Dire.”) In late October, a bipartisan group of attorneys general from 41 states and Washington, D.C. announced that they are suing Meta, claiming that Instagram and Facebook were made to be addictive and have caused mental health and body image issues among young people.
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