Looking back on a year filled with images of a twerking Miley Cyrus and a near-constant stream of pop culture news stories about high-profile Kardashian divorces and Simon Cowell’s affair with his friend’s wife, some might conclude that the ruin of American culture is “inevitable.” Despite the many signs to the contrary, there really are some ways in which American culture has improved from 20 years ago.
Here are five reasons to celebrate 2013 and to look forward to 2014:
- Americans are more pro-life than ever. World-famous tenor Andrea Bocelli made news when he told the story of how his mother decided to bring him into this world despite warnings that his life would not be worth living. Today, 50 percent of Americans join Bocelli in identifying themselves as pro-life. This is the first time in the 40 years since Roe v. Wade that a majority of Americans have joined in the defense of women and children. In fact, opinion has shifted substantially in the past 20 years: In 1995, 56 percent of Americans identified themselves as pro-choice, but now that number is less than 41 percent.
- There has been a decrease in the number of teens in trouble. Since 1991, there has been a 36 percent decrease in high school students carrying weapons. There has also been a drop in the number of teens carrying guns, becoming involved in physical altercations, and being injured in fights. In the past 20 years, teen pregnancy rates have dropped by more than 40 percent, and more teens today are choosing to delay sexual activity, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Less than 6 percent of all teens have had sex by their 15th birthday—a substantial drop from the 13 percent figure reported in 2012.
- Seventy-five percent of Americans are religious. Among these 75 percent, about one-half say religion plays a somewhat or very important role in their lives. The majority of adults—nearly 60 percent—still pray daily, and another 20 percent say that they pray weekly. It’s no surprise that one of the most watched shows on television (11.8 million viewers) is Duck Dynasty—a reality show that among other antics features a sincerely religious family.
- Americans are volunteering more. Americans are spending more time helping their neighbors. In the past 10 years, the national average of annual volunteerism among all Americans increased. Americans’ connection to religion and prayer affects this vital aspect of culture: Among individuals who attend religious services at least once a week, there are higher rates of volunteerism and charitable giving.
- Marriages are lasting longer. The arrival of Prince George was one of 2013’s most anticipated events for a reason: Americans value the stability of family. Unlike previous decades, nearly three-quarters of Americans married in the 1990s celebrated a 10th anniversary. The stability of these marriages is good news for children. Decades of social science research indicate that children tend to do best when raised in intact married families.
While some events in 2013 may have had us rolling our eyes, there is plenty to look forward to next year and in the years to come. Sometimes the good things just aren’t as obvious as twerking Mileys.