How the Socioeconomic Characteristics of Young Adults Have Changed In the Past 40 Years

July 12, 2016

This article is included in these additional categories:

Demographics & Audiences | Education | Real Estate | Youth & Gen X

CensusBureau-Changing-Characteristics-Young-Adults-Jul2016At the age of 30, more than 7 in 10 young adults were married, had a child, were not enrolled in school, and lived on their own. That was in 1975. Fast forward 40 years, and just 32% fit that picture, per a new analysis released by the US Census Bureau.

Young adults (30-year-olds) are putting off marriage and kids at far greater rather than they did 40 years ago. Indeed, as of last year, 57% had ever married, down from 89% in 1975. Likewise, less than half (47%) were living with a child, down from about three-quarters (76%) in 1975.

As of last year, 7 in 10 young adults (30-year-olds) lived on their own, according to the analysis, down from 90% in 1975. That follows an earlier assessment from the Pew Research Center, which revealed that for the first time on record, 18-34-year-olds are more likely to be living with a parent than having any other living arrangement.

Financial concerns likely play a role. While 30-year-olds today are more likely to have at least a high school diploma (90% vs. 80%) and be in the labor force (81% vs. 71%), those advances haven’t translated into other socioeconomic aspects of life. Namely, only 55% have a moderate income (between 66% and 200% of the national median household income), a drop from 71% in 1975. And just 33% are homeowners, a steep decline from 56% some 40 years ago.

Financial instability has also changed the mindset of young parents, particularly as student debt has weighed heavily on the young population. Data contained in a recent MarketingCharts study on youth and financial services indicates that as of last year, 74% of parents aged 30-34 with children expected to attend college have started saving for that goal. In 2007, only 58% of parents of that age had started saving for their children’s college expenses. Part of that motivation seems to be an increased desire to not burden their children with student debt: 48% of young parents plan to pay for all college costs, triple the share (16%) from the earlier study period.

The findings are interesting in light of marketers’ strong focus on Millennials (of which there are many…). It’s worth keeping in mind that most of these youth are yet to “settle down,” at least in the traditional sense… As such, the attention paid to Millennials is likely more about capturing their loyalty (if that’s possible) rather than finding the highest-spending consumers.

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