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Young Adults: Then and Now
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Photo: US Census
A Rich New Information Sources About Young Adults

The United States Census has opened up a new Web page which provides data on young adults with comparisons for each decade from 1980 to the most recent survey in 2013. It is entitled “Young Adults: Then and Now” and can be seen at: http://bit.ly/1GpqNKk.

It has a very user-friendly interface with a map of the U.S. and you can select a map that shows the states, or a map that shows the metro areas, or a map the shows the counties. In fact, you can get the data down to the Census Tract (neighborhood) level, although there is no map at that level.

You can look at graphs on the Web or download an XLS file for Excel or a CSV file that is compatible with most data management software. There is also a Codebook and list of variables that you can download.

Young adult is defined as 18 to 34 years of age, the most standard definition used by social science researchers and analysts in all fields. The comparison over time allows you to see how today’s young adults compare to the young-adult years of previous generations. The 1980 data is the Baby Boom generation, the 1990 data is Gen X, the 2000 data and the most recent survey are for the Millennial generation, today’s young adults. Remember, in general the Baby Boomers are the parents of the Millennials.

This is the “Rolls Royce” of information sources because the Census has much larger samples and the most careful scientific sampling methods of any research enterprise. This source is better than any of the surveys, books and articles that are regularly announced from many different places, including academic articles, reports by various organizations and market research projects.

Some of the Most Important Facts

In 1980 nearly a third of the population was young adult, today it is less than a quarter. The proportion of young adults in America is shrinking as the proportion of senior citizens is expanding.

The percentage of young adults who are immigrants has doubled since 1980. It has grown from six percent to 15 percent. All states have higher proportions of foreign-born young adults today than they did in 1980, but the growth has been strongest on the West Coast and in the Northeast. One in four young adults speaks a language other than English at home.

More young adults today live in poverty than in 1980 and they have lower rates of employment. One in five young adults lives in poverty (13.5 million people) as compared to one in seven in 1980 (8 million people). Young adults today are significantly less likely to have served in the military; nine percent were veterans in 1980 compared to only two percent today.

Young adults are better educated today than they were in 1980. Nearly one in four have a college degree compared to less than one in six then.

Unlike previous generations, the majority of today’s young adults have never married. New generations are delaying marriage as a general rule. About half the percentage are married today (one in three) as compared to 1980 (two out of three).

The Center for Creative Ministry will schedule Webinars to show you how to navigate this information source and extract the data you need. Remember, this enables you to get information about your local community or the area you serve. The Center will also prepare customized reports in PowerPoint and PDFs on request.

— Monte Sahlin
Center for Creative Ministry
(800) 272-4664