Tuesday, September 6, 2022

New Historical Marriage Figures from US Census Bureau

The US Census Bureau released a report a few days ago, providing extensive marriage statistics on individuals born from 1940-1994 (link). Someone born in 1940 would be 82 today, whereas someone born in 1994 would be 28. The data are grouped into five-year birth bunches (1940-1944, 1945-1949, etc.). 

As shown in the following screen capture (on which I've literally connected the dots in yellow highlighter for ease of viewing), the percentage of people married by age 25 has plummeted during the years studied. As highlighted in the lower yellow line, 80% of women born between 1940-1944 were married by age 25. By the time we get to the 1990-1994 birth-cohort, however, only 30% were married by 25. That's a huge change! Men's trend for marrying by 25 (bottom set of dots) parallels women's, although is lower in absolute level. Roughly 65% of men born from 1940-1944 married by age 25, a figure that has dropped to 20% in men born from 1990-1994. 

Note that the trendlines for men and women being marrying by age 35 (top yellow line) also declined from 1940-1944 onward, but much more gradually than did the marriage-by-25 trendlines.* What this is saying is that, even for the younger cohorts, marriage by 35 is quite common (around 70%).

The report also contains statistics on the rate of being married once vs. multiple times. Click on the above-linked article if you're interested.

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*You may have noticed that there are no married-by-35 data-points for the two youngest birth-cohorts (1985-1989 and 1990-1994). The reason is that nobody born from 1990-1994 has yet reached age 35, whereas only some in the 1985-1989 cohort have. Hence, the percent in these cohorts who have married by age 35 won't be known for a few more years.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

New National Findings on US 19-30 Year-Olds' Substance Use

Earlier this week, results came out from one of the major US substance-use surveys, namely the annual Monitoring the Future project conducted by the University of Michigan. The headline of UM's news release was "Marijuana, hallucinogen use at all-time high* among young adults." However, I think some of the alcohol-related findings are also quite interesting. 

Regarding past-year marijuana use (i.e., any use of marijuana in the past year), 30.8% of 19-30 year-olds in the year 1988 had smoked some pot in the past 12 months. This figure dipped into the low-20% range during much of the 1990s, rose slightly into the mid-high 20% range in the 2000s, rose through the 30% range in the 2010s, and reached 42.6% as of 2021 (see Figure 1 of full report).    

Past-year hallucinogen use had a roughly 3%-4% prevalence among 19-30 year-olds consistently from 1988-2017 (Figure 20 of full report). The figure rose to around 5% in 2018 and 2019, before escalating to 7.6% in 2020 and 8.1% in '21. Some of the survey's methodology was changed during COVID-19. One can also envision how stay-at-home orders -- and the potential accompanying boredom -- might have affected substance use. However, any direct linkage between COVID-related factors and recent substance-use increases does not appear to have been established at this time.

One set of analyses compares current full-time college students to same-age noncollege peers (i.e., within four years post-high school) in their substance-use patterns. Results are also broken down by gender, yielding four groups: male college students, male noncollege individuals, female college students, and female noncollege individuals. As shown in the full report, past-year alcohol consumption was most common among college women (77.5% engaging in the behavior), followed by college men (73.4%), noncollege women (71.9%), and noncollege men (65.3%) (see Table 27). 

On a measure of heavier alcohol consumption -- number of occasions within the previous two weeks consuming five or more drinks -- the group with the highest rate was college men (33.9%), followed by college women (28.8%), noncollege women (24.7%), and noncollege men (23.3%) (Table 29). Hence, college continues to be a social context conducive to heavy drinking and differences between young men and women continue to shrink.

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*Whether the pun of juxtaposing "marijuana" and "high" was intentional or unintentional, I don't know.

Friday, July 29, 2022

My New Textbook on Emerging Adulthood

My new textbook Journeys through Emerging Adulthood has now been published. A free preview of Chapter 1 is available via Amazon and the book's publisher, Routledge/Taylor & Francis. The book is the culmination of my 20+ years of doing research on emerging adulthood and 14 years of teaching the course Development in Young Adulthood at Texas Tech University. It was a labor of love to write.

I'm happy to discuss possible adoptions with anyone. Some university departments of human development and family sciences offer courses on young adulthood or one could offer a special-topics course in psychology or sociology. Twenty-somethings and parents of twenty-somethings may also enjoy the book. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Young-Adult Voters' Attitudes Toward President Biden Roughly Three Months Before 2022 Midterm Elections

Five-Thirty-Eight has a piece today examining the low percentage (slightly below 40%) of 18-29 year-old Americans who approve of the job President Joe Biden is doing. This approval rate is not that different from that of Americans as a whole; however, considering young voters' overwhelming support of Biden in the 2020 election, their diminished approval is highly notable. The article explores many possible reasons for Biden's dip among young adults, but one in particular meshes with the study of emerging adulthood.

Extensive research on laypersons' criteria for considering someone an adult shows one of the three primary standards to be whether the person has achieved financial independence. The Five-Thirty-Eight article notes that those transitioning to adulthood indeed hold themselves to this standard ("35 percent of Americans age 15 to 25 said financial independence was their most or second-most important life aspiration, ahead of other priorities such as having a fulfilling career or being married"). The uneven economic performance under Biden -- low unemployment but high inflation -- is thus likely dragging down approval for the President.

Emerging-adulthood scholars also are interested in young adults' election turnout -- traditionally low but strong in the last midterm election year of 2018. There are, of course, questions of whether low enthusiasm for Biden will affect 18-29 year-olds' turnout to vote this upcoming November. The Five-Thirty-Eight piece quotes John Della Volpe, a pollster specializing in young voters, to the effect that "Despite the frustration that young people have about government in general, they just feel more connected to voting.” 

Personally, I'll need more evidence in the coming years to proclaim young adults "connected to voting." But if they do turn out heavily this November despite their current low enthusiasm for President Biden, it will be noteworthy.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

College Students Return to Campuses, But Even Amidst COVID-19 Continue to Socialize

As I noted in my previous entry, "teens and young adults like to socialize, pure and simple." Nowhere is this more clear than at those U.S. universities whose administrators have opted to bring students back to campus for in-person instruction of some form. 

Inside the classroom, the combination of instructors' ability to monitor students' mask-wearing, the spacing of available seats, and potential peer pressure to conform from students who do not want their classes to be disrupted by mask-refuser holdouts, makes me think safety measures will largely succeed.  

The greater threat of Coronavirus spreading, as has begun to be borne out in the last week or so, is students' socializing and partying outside the classroom. Today's New York Times has an article entitled "Stop Campus Partying to Slow the Virus? Colleges Try but Often Fail" (link). After describing some of the  campuses at which clusters of new COVID-19 cases have recently emerged, the article discusses the myriad responses administrators have tried, in an effort to contain the spread.

These responses include no-party mandates, student codes and pledges, monitoring by residence-hall advisors, punitive sanctions (suspensions from school and evictions from dormitories), encouragement of students to inform on each other's safety non-compliance, shaming messages ("Do you want to be the person responsible for sending everyone home?"), and "We're in this together" advertising campaigns. The sheer breadth of these measures suggests no one method has been overwhelmingly successful.

As a result of new COVID-19 outbreaks at some universities, some are indeed sending students back home for online-only instruction (e.g., University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill), whereas others have told students who were scheduled to return to campus not to bother after all (e.g., Michigan State). The schools reversing or delaying their returns to on-campus instruction currently number in the hundreds, according to the website Inside Higher Ed.

Unless there is a major sea change in students' willingness to refrain from socializing -- which is not entirely students' fault, in my view, given universities' mixed messaging in continuing to stage entertainment-type events such as football games with tens of thousands of spectators in attendance -- I see the present trends toward greater spread and shifts to off-campus learning continuing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

COVID-19 Rise in Young Adults

Click on graph to enlarge.

The graph above -- from South Carolina's Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), showing the state's COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population by age group from March 7 to June 20 -- documents a trend we're hearing a lot about. A lot of cases during the recent wave are among young adults.*

According to the above-linked DHEC report, "Since April 4, data from the agency shows that there has been a 413.9% increase in newly reported COVID-19 cases among the 21-30 age group..."

A Vox piece notes that, "Young people, who account for a bigger share of the recent cases, aren’t at nearly as high a risk of dying from the virus, but some small number of them will still die and a larger number will end up in the hospital." Even if young adults' fatality rate is low overall, however, yet another manifestation of societal health disparities is a finding that "Black people with COVID-19 in the 25-34 age group had a mortality rate 7.3 times that of non-Hispanic white people." Hispanic-to-white mortality ratios are only slightly less pronounced.

Why the surging COVID count among those in the emerging adulthood range? Three partially overlapping theories seem to be getting the most attention.
  • Relative to their older counterparts, on average, adolescents and young adults are thought to see themselves as more immune to certain dangers, earning them the nickname "Young Invincibles." Research has indeed shown greater sense of invulnerability to correlate with some risky behaviors.
  • The brain's prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is associated with reason, planning, and blocking impulsive acts, does not appear to mature fully until well into one's twenties. Hence, lack of a fully developed PFC among many in the emerging-adulthood age-range -- combined with a brain-based attunement to rewards such as opportunities to socialize -- may leave them susceptible to risky behaviors. Interestingly, one study that briefly disrupted people's PFC found an increase in gambling.
  • Related to the previous two ideas, teens and young adults like to socialize, pure and simple. In Minnesota, four bars have been identified as COVID "hot spots" for young adults. One of these bars is in the Dinkytown district by the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, another is not too far away in downtown Minneapolis, and two are in Mankato, home to a Minnesota State University campus. College-area bars have also been linked to COVID in other states, as well.

How do young adults, themselves, view the situation?

The Huffington Post recently teamed up with the polling organization YouGov to survey U.S. adults of all ages on their behaviors and attitudes regarding COVID. A key item (shown in the following graph) concerns respondents' self-reported mask-wearing in public, near other people. Indeed, fewer respondents under 30 years old (40%) reported "always" wearing a mask than was the case in any of the other age groups.


If one goes to the HuffPost article at the above link, one can plot the data by any combination of variables one wishes to see (atop the graph, the little "v" in the right-hand part of the green area can be used to select survey items, whereas the "By" button on the little blue square can be used to select the grouping variable, such as age). 

One of the attitude items asked respondents if they believed wearing a mask was more a matter of public health or of personal choice. Interestingly, in each of the four age groups (under 30, 30-44, 45-64, and 65+), far more people cited public health (roughly 60%) than personal choice (roughly 30%). Young adults, therefore, are seemingly on the same page attitudinally with their older peers, but they simply don't follow through in wearing masks.

As this latest COVID surge unfolds, stronger government orders to wear masks are coming out -- even in previously resistant states such as Texas -- so we'll see if this does anything to change the behavior of young adults.

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*Although some of the increase in case numbers may stem from increased testing, that is clearly not the only reason. As this article points out, "more people in lower-risk populations are likely being tested now than when tests were being strictly rationed to severe cases," which should lead to lower test-positivity rates. Yet, in many regions of the U.S., positivity rates are up. Also, the rising hospitalizations seen in many locations presumably originate from people who feel really sick with COVID-type symptoms going -- or being taken by family or friends -- to their doctor or an ER, which has little or nothing to do with testing campaigns in the community.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Pew Report Compares Millenials to Earlier Generations

The Pew Research Center, a little over a month ago, released a report entitled "Millennial Life: How Young Adulthood Today Compares with Prior Generations" (LINK). The report defines Millennials as those born from 1981-1996, making them 22-37 at the time of the analyses (2018). The researchers then compared Millennials to members of three prior generations (X, Baby Boom, and Silent) when members of those generations were likewise 22-37.*

Millennials are more educated and less likely to be married than their earlier-generation counterparts. The report also looks at employment, earnings, living with one's parents, and voting. One of the more interesting graphs, in my view, shows that whereas marriage rates within each pre-Millennial generation did not vary much by education (e.g., in the Silent Generation, subgroups with different educational attainment all fell within 81-86% being married), there were wide educational differences in marriage among the Millennials. Fifty-three percent of Millenials with a Bachelor's degree or higher were married, compared to 44% of those with some college and 40% of high school graduates.

This report is a must-read for those interested in the demographic characteristics of today's young adults.

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*Some of the analyses compared 25-37 year-olds, presumably as a result of different data sets having responses from different age groups available.