Today’s young adults look different from prior generations in almost every regard: how much education they have, their work experiences, when they start a family and even who they live with while growing up. A new U.S. Census Bureau report, The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975–2016, looks at changes in young adulthood over the last 40 years. The report focuses on the education, economics and living arrangements of today's young adults and how their experiences differ in timing and degree from what young adults experienced in the 1970s.
· Most of today’s Americans believe that educational and economic accomplishments are extremely important milestones of adulthood. In contrast, marriage and parenthood rank low: over half of Americans believe that marrying and having children are not very important in order to become an adult.
· Young people are delaying marriage, but most still eventually tie the knot. In the 1970s, 8 in 10 people married by the time they turned 30. Today, not until the age of 45 have 8 in 10 people married.
· More young people today live in their parents’ home than in any other arrangement: 1 in 3 young people, or about 24 million 18- to 34-year olds, lived in their parents’ home in 2015.
· In 2005, the majority of young adults lived independently in their own household, which was the predominant living arrangement in 35 states. A decade later, by 2015, the number of states where the majority of young people lived independently fell to just six. Of the top five states where the most young adults lived independently in 2015, all were in Midwest and Plains states.
· More young men are falling to the bottom of the income ladder. In 1975, 25 percent of young men ages 25 to 34 had incomes of less than $30,000 per year. By 2016, that share rose to 41 percent of young men (incomes for both years are in 2015 dollars).
· Between 1975 and 2016, the share of young women who were homemakers fell from 43 percent to 14 percent of all women ages 25 to 34.
· Of young people living in their parents’ home, 1 in 4 are idle, that is they neither go to school nor work. This figure represents about 2.2 million 25- to 34-year-olds. Among other characteristics, these young adults are more likely to have a child, so they may be caring for family, and over one quarter have a disability of some kind.
This report uses data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and Current Population Survey to look at the changing demographics and economic characteristics of young adults. A third data source, the National Science Foundation’s General Social Survey, looks at beliefs, attitudes and values that Americans have about adulthood.