Smoking Levels Among Students at Historic Low, Says Report Produced With Help From AIR Experts

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Smoking among students reached the lowest levels since researchers began tracking such data in 1980, according to a new report produced with key assistance from experts at the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

Smoking among students reached the lowest levels since researchers began tracking such data in 1980, according to a new report produced with key assistance from experts at the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

That finding is one of several in America’s Children in Brief: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2016, an annual report on children up to 17 years old released by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics.

In 2015, the report documents, 1 percent of 8th-grade students, 3 percent of 10th-grade students and 6 percent of 12th-grade students reported smoking cigarettes daily in the past 30 days — down from 9 percent, 16 percent and 22 percent, respectively, in 1995.

Additionally, from 1999-2000 to 2011-2012, the percentage of all children 4-11 years old exposed to secondhand smoke declined by 24 percentage points. Exposure to secondhand smoke declined significantly for each racial and ethnic group: 25 percentage points among white, non-Hispanic; 18 percentage points among black, non-Hispanic; and 19 percentage points among Mexican-American children.

The report groups the most current major federal statistics on children, youth and families into seven areas: family and social environment, economic circumstances, health care, physical environment and safety, behavior, education and health. To deepen perspective across domains, this year’s report highlights selected indicators by race and ethnicity. Timely statistics and topics on children’s lives are presented in a nontechnical, easy-to-understand format.

Other key findings include:

  •     In 2015, 21 percent of white, non-Hispanic 12th-grade students and 19 percent of Hispanic 12th-grade students reported binge drinking, double the rate of black, non-Hispanic 12th-grade students (10 percent).
  •     In 2014, Hispanic children were more likely to be uninsured (10 percent) than white, non-Hispanic and black, non-Hispanic children (4 percent each). White, non-Hispanic children were more likely to have private insurance (68 percent) compared with Hispanic (31 percent) and black, non-Hispanic (34 percent) children.
  •     For all youth ages 12-17, the rate of serious violent victimization — including aggravated assault, rape, robbery and homicide — declined sharply from the early 1990s to the early 2000s. Declines since have been slower. In 1993, youth ages 12-17 experienced 40 serious violent crimes per 1,000 youth, compared with 18 crimes per 1,000 youth in 2000 and 8 crimes per 1,000 youth in 2014.
  •     In 2015, 52 percent of U.S. children ages 0-17 were white, non-Hispanic; 25 percent were Hispanic; 14 percent were black, non-Hispanic; 5 percent were Asian, non-Hispanic; and 4 percent were non-Hispanic children of two or more races.
  •     The percentage of Hispanic children has grown substantially — from 9 percent of the child population in 1980 to 25 percent in 2015. By 2020, fewer than half of all children are projected to be white, non-Hispanic.
  •     In 2014, 12 percent of white, non-Hispanic children lived in poverty compared with 37 percent of black, non-Hispanic children and 32 percent of Hispanic children.
  •     For all children in 2014, the supplemental poverty measure rate (which incorporates such additional items as tax payments, work expenses, and out-of-pocket medical expenditures) was 17 percent, 4 percentage points lower than the official poverty rate.

AIR staff worked on quality control reviews, data management, data checks and other dimensions of the report. Experts included Susan Armstrong, Melissa Diliberti, Kathryn Low, Katie Mallory and Ashley Roberts.

To see the full report, visit

About AIR
Established in 1946, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., the American Institutes for Research (AIR) is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts behavioral and social science research and delivers technical assistance both domestically and internationally in the areas of health, education, and workforce productivity. For more information, visit

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Andrew Brownstein
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