Growing up is hard to do

Twentysomethings are taking longer to grow up, says USA Today.

They’re going to school longer, delaying marriage and children, job-hopping and apartment-swapping. They’re also moving back home after college to save money, traveling to faraway places to work and generally taking “me” time to decide what they want their futures to be.

. . . “It’s the harbinger of a basic transformation of adulthood,” says James Cote, a sociologist at the University of Western Ontario who has coined the term “youthhood.” “The traditional adulthood of duty and self-sacrifice is becoming more and more a thing of the past.”

Recent findings published by the American Sociological Association and based on U.S. Census data show a sharp decline in the percentage of young adults who have finished school, left home, gotten married, had a child and reached financial independence, considered typical standards of adulthood. In 2000, 46% of women and 31% of men had reached those markers by age 30, vs. 77% of women and 65% of men at the same age in 1960.

There’s a book on youthhood called Quarter Life Crisis.

About Joanne


  1. Is it possible that economics has anything to do with this, Joanne? In 1975 (aged 24) I was able to afford 1/5 of a 3-bedroom house in Palo Alto on an entry-level salary–rented, of course. I was financially independent, but had postponed parenthood.

    Could a 24-year-old today do that anywhere between San Francisco and San Jose, considering the rents and the job market?

    Could other demographic figures have anything to do with that either? What’s the average age of first child for the top 25% of SES? What does the change look like since 1960? How old were you when you had your first child? (in my family, the women started at 30, 36, 34 and 35–not too unusual in my circle, although I think it’s going back down again).

  2. superdestroyer says:


    I agree this has a lot to do with economics but it also has a lot to do with class. To enter the upper SES these days requires grad school and probably an intership. Thus the kids end up at home willing trying to punch all of the tickets to enter the upper SES workforce.

    Also, the kids from the uppermiddle class just are not going to take the downgrade in living standard it takes to survive an entry level wages

    I wonder how many suburban white kids find out that their BS degree in government after five or six years as an undergraduate just does not qualify them for any real jobs and thus have to go to law school or grad school.

  3. Bluemount says:

    This is a world-wide trend. Even when people make a lot of money children they often don’t want children, children are very expensive and time-consuming. Since most governments would like to see the world population decline, I expect the trend will continue.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    When I was around 44 I went to my LAST PTA meeting. I do not envy those, there, who were attending their first. Those who deny themselves both the joys and the sorrows of parenthood cannot have substituted anything else of equivalent value.

  5. “I wonder how many suburban white kids find out that their BS degree in government after five or six years as an undergraduate just does not qualify them for any real jobs and thus have to go to law school or grad school.”

    Superdestroyer, it’s a lot of us. In fact, I’ve decided that college is a con job, and if the public schools were functioning reliably college wouldn’t be treated as the holy grail it is not.

  6. Here’s a post about the delay of adulthood from a psychological point of view (and how the dysfunctional kids ended up that way).

    Another point is the accellerating debt load young adults–not consumer debt, but educational debt. Jeeze, living rent-free with the ‘rents starts looking pretty good if you have a small income and a big loan balance.

    Lindenen, what is a “real job”? My first job was a proofreader at a scholarly publishing house–not even 2x minimum wage–but I did it to get in the running for an editing job (which I regarded as “real”.) I think a lot of kids have a warped expectation that the insane Gold Rush of the late 1990s were all “real jobs”.

    Is teaching a “real job’? Need a BA/BS for that, and we sure need more teachers.

    If you are talking about a job that is satisfying, have you considered construction, or the trades? Smart folk needed there too–but college probably isn’t necessary.

  7. A “real job” is 40 hours/week with benefits.
    Not temping or waitressing till your eyes fall out of your head. Why do I know so many brilliant people who are wasting their lives doing clerical work they could have done in 10th grade? Why do I know people with only high school degrees who can’t get jobs doing the stupid clerical work? Why do you need to have a college degree to be considered competent to alphabetize files?