Friday, October 28, 2011

Washington DC Becoming Hub for Emerging Adults

The Washington Post has been reporting this year on how the nation's capital city is becoming a hub for people in the emerging adulthood age range (here and here). According to the second linked article:

About 190,000 of the city’s 600,000 residents are between the ages of 20 and 34, a 23 percent jump. The 35,000 additional people in that age group fueled the city’s entire population gain between 2000 and 2010.

To see how unique Washington, DC really is, I did a little extra research. The U.S. Census Bureau creates what are known as "population pyramids," in which horizontal bars are stacked from the bottom (young ages) to the top (old ages). The wider a given bar, the bigger the population for that age range. The pyramid for D.C. has a pronounced widening for the ages 20-35 relative to other ages, a pattern not seen nearly as much in states such as California, New York, Texas, or even Washington, home of trendy Seattle.

Given how expensive the DC area is, it seems counterintuitive that it would attract young adults. The main reason cited for the capital's drawing power is the seemingly steady availability of government-related jobs. That, and the "hip" nightlife and other amenities. The idea of a reinforcing cycle of amenities (restaurants, bars, shops, parks) attracting bright young adults, and vice versa, reminds me of Richard Florida's writings on cities and the "creative class."

An area of speculation raised by the Post articles is whether Washington, DC's young adults who, for example, are currently single, or married and childless, will remain in the city after starting families or move to the suburbs surrounding DC (or elsewhere).

Monday, September 26, 2011

Recent Articles on EA and Coping with Economic Gloom

A couple of news articles have come out recently about how emerging adults are dealing with the protracted economic gloom of the the past few years. One article, passed on to me by Tim Oblad, a graduate student in our department at Texas Tech, is entitled "Census Numbers Show Recession Taking Toll on Young Adults" (link). The article notes that:

In record-setting numbers, young adults struggling to find work are shunning long-distance moves to live with Mom and Dad, delaying marriage and buying fewer homes, often raising kids out of wedlock. They suffer from the highest unemployment since World War II and risk living in poverty more than others -- nearly 1 in 5.

Many emerging adults appear, in many ways, to be putting their lives on hold until the economy improves. The article suggests, however, that when job prospects get brighter, individuals who might by then be in their mid-20s "will have to compete with new graduates for entry-level career positions."

The article quotes Mark Mather of the Population Reference Bureau, which studies demographic and societal trends, and Mather makes an important point. The past few years' flagging economy didn't initiate the trends of young people delaying marriage, moving back home with their parents, and so forth, but the recession seems to be "accelerating" these pheonomena.

The other article, brought to the attention of the American Association for Public Opinion Research e-mail discussion group (in which I participate) by Leo Simonetta, is entitled "2010 Data Show Surge in Poor Young Families" (link). The two articles share some of the same sources.

Most notably, the second article reports that, "More than one in three young families with children were living in poverty last year," with "young family" in this context apparently defined as the parents being younger than 30.

For decades, the U.S. economy has been rewarding those with greater education and/or punishing those with less education, depending on one's perspective. What's scary is how quickly this dynamic has exerted itself during the current recession. Again, quoting from the second article, "The number of men in their 20s with only a high school degree who worked full time fell by 22 percent from 2007 to 2010, while those with a college degree dropped by just 1 percent, according to census data."

Pretty gloomy stuff! On a separate but related note, Barbara Ray, a fellow writer on young-adulthood issues, has been working on a project called "Generation R" (for Recession).

Friday, July 29, 2011

Leaving the Parental Home

The National Center for Family and Marriage Research has a new report out, entitled "On the Road to Adulthood: Leaving the Parental Home." The report focuses on the 18-24 year-old age group and three mutually exclusive statuses: launched, boomerang (returned home after moving out), and never left. Differences by gender, race/ethnicity, and education are explored.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

American Youth Policy Forum Videos

The American Youth Policy Forum has online videos available from roundtable sessions at a June conference on the transition to adulthood.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Cohabitation Research

Via the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, a Pew Research executive-summary report shows that, "Among women ages 19-44... 58% had ever lived with an opposite-sex unmarried partner in 2006-2008, up from 33% among a comparable group in 1987..." The article also probes educational and income correlates of different living arrangements. Regarding some key transitions in adulthood, the report notes that:

...cohabitation plays a different role in the lives of adults with and without college degrees. For the most educated, living as an unmarried couple typically is an economically productive way to combine two incomes and is a step toward marriage and childbearing. For adults without college degrees, cohabitation is more likely to be a parallel household arrangement to marriage -- complete with children -- but at a lower economic level than married adults enjoy.

The report focuses on heterosexual couples, but also notes that approximately 400,000 Americans age 30-44 are involved in same-sex unmarried-couple relationships. Many of these individuals may eventually marry their same-sex partners, as this option becomes available in an increasing number of states.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Census Report on Delayed Childbirth

The National Council on Family Relations (NCFR) relays a Census Bureau report on a "Delayer Boom," that is college-educated women delaying childbirth. Further details from the Census Bureau are available here.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Book Review: Not Quite Adults

As documented on this blog, there has been a lot of writing lately on Emerging Adulthood (EA), in the form of books and newspaper/magazine articles. One of the newer arrivals on the scene is the book Not Quite Adults: Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing a Slower Path to Adulthood, and Why It's Good for Everyone, written by Oregon State University professor Richard Settersten and Chicago-based writer Barbara Ray.

(The name of Ray's company, Hired Pen, may lead some observers to an erroneous conclusion; far from just mechanically writing up what her clients want her to, Barbara is a substantively knowledgeable commentator on the transition to adulthood. In fact, at my invitation, she appeared via Skype as a guest lecturer in my Texas Tech course on Development in Young Adulthood, last fall.)

Naturally, it was with great eagerness that I awaited the release of Not Quite Adults, and now having finished it, I think it will take its place among the leading contemporary books on emerging adulthood. Written accessibly for the general public (including parents, teachers, and student advisors), but with no lapse in scholarly rigor, the book covers many traditional topics of EA. These include higher education, jobs/careers, relationships/marriage, social contexts (parents and friends), and civic participation, areas in which the authors make several interesting contributions. As I now look back at the pages I annotated, there are many sections that will be helpful for my teaching and research.

The book seeks to weave together a few different threads: research findings from the MacArthur Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood, with which the two authors are affiliated; interviews with young people going through the transition; and advice for such transitioners and their parents. A persistent lens through which the authors present their information is that of social class and inequality. With much of the EA literature slanted towards the college-educated, the book's considerable attention to working-class and lower-income individuals is a welcome development.

Settersten and Ray tackle difficult issues facing young people in recent years' Great Recession and they're not afraid to propound what some might consider counterintuitive ideas. One of the book's more provocative lines of arguments concerns money, debt, and pursuit of higher education. As I wrote in a different venue: issues likely play a more complex and challenging role for young people of modest economic means who could qualify academically for college, but are reluctant to apply, for fear of getting themselves deep into debt with college-tuition costs. In their new book Not Quite Adults, Richard Settersten and Barbara Ray suggest that the choice of not going to college, as a money-saving strategy, will likely backfire. On pp. 31-33, Settersten and Ray provide statistics on the amount of student debt commonly faced by college graduates and the increment in earnings college degree-holders are likely to receive, compared to their less-educated counterparts.

Another controversial issue on which the authors offer advice is the role of parents in helping their grown children make the transition to adulthood. Parents who seem to go too far in monitoring and acting on behalf of their children have earned the moniker "helicopter parents." A colleague recently shared another term with me for parents who try to clear away all obstacles in their emerging-adult children's way: "lawnmower parents" (or maybe it should be "bulldozer parents").

Settersten and Ray feel parents do have a constructive role to play, but that it should be confined to providing their children with advice and helping them appraise their skills, goals, and options. When parents actually take actions that the emerging-adult children should take for themselves is where the trouble starts (see pp. 176-181). In the past year, I've begun a research program on helicopter parents, which I think will benefit from Settersten and Ray's writings.

The authors also write extensively on young adults' trends toward delayed marriage. In this area, Settersten and Ray dovetail with the 2010 book Red Families v. Blue Families by Naomi Cahn and June Carbone, in evaluating the pros and cons of waiting to marry.

In conclusion, Not Quite Adults contributes valuable perspectives to contemporary discussions of the transition to adulthood, and does so in a lively and scholarly manner.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Job Training for Careers Requiring More Than High School But Less than College

Lauren Moore, blogging back in February at The Future of Children website, discusses the need for the U.S. to prepare millions of young people for jobs that require something more than a high school diploma, but not necessarily a college bachelor's degree (there are also, of course, millions of future jobs that will require a bachelor's degree).

Moore alludes in her posting to a Harvard Graduate School of Education report that "recommends identifying career fields of interest early on, and then creating pathways by which students can learn the skills they need to succeed in those occupations, some of which involve a bachelor's degree and some of which do not."

In this way, the posting reminds me of the distinction between American and European systems of transitioning young people from education to occupations. As Jeff Arnett writes in his 2004 book Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties, "In most European countries, young people separate into different schools by age 14 or 15, with some entering schools that will prepare them for college and others entering schools that will prepare them for a trade, such as electronics or auto mechanics" (p. 132).

Arnett discusses the pros and cons of the American and European systems. Essentially, these boil down to the European system promoting focus and occupational progress, but at the cost of requiring individuals to choose their educational/occupational life path at a very early age (with it being very difficult to change course down the line). The American system, by not requiring early focus and commitment, allows for exploration (potentially good), but with the possibility of such exploration transforming into floundering.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jeff Arnett Discusses Economic Issues

Jeff Arnett discusses the fate of emerging adults in the persistently tough U.S. economy.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Book Announcement: Romantic Relationships in Emerging Adulthood

The new book Romantic Relationships in Emerging Adulthood (Cambridge University Press) is now available. It is an edited volume, overseen by Frank Fincham and Ming Cui of Florida State University, with each chapter written by different authors.

I contributed one of the opening chapters, providing background information on Emerging Adulthood and its possible links to romantic-relationship development.

Other chapters cover a variety of topics, including relationship initiation, family-of-origin influences, sexuality, cohabitation, and relationship education. There are also chapters on methodological and statistical approaches to studying close relationships, such as the Actor-Partner Interdependence Model.