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.


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Politico Series on Cities with Large Populations of Millennials

The Washington, DC-based Politico magazine recently had an article on cities for Millennials (which the article defined as those born from 1981-1997). To identify these cities, the authors devised a formula that rated cities on factors such as the share of adults in a city who are 25-34, percent of 25-34 year-olds with college degrees, and issues related to cities' economic growth and suitability to walking and using public transportation, the latter "a well documented preference among millennials."

The result is this list of millennial-aligned cities. Note, however, that many of these cities have features that are not necessarily millennial-friendly, such as sky-high rental and housing costs (e.g., San Francisco, Boston, Washington, DC, and Seattle). On the page with the list, you should see a small circle in the lower-right of the screen, by which it says "TOGGLE." Clicking on the circle will bring up a set of demographic features, with which you can tailor a set of characteristics to your liking, by sliding the bars for more or less of a certain feature. When you do this, the city rankings will automatically be recalculated to fit your needs.

The article notes that, "the cities that millennials are adopting and transforming tend to be as racially and ethnically diverse as millennials themselves. Two-thirds of the top 50 cities are majority-minority..." Two central features of Emerging Adulthood are exploration and new experiences. Diverse cities will allow young adults to meet people with different backgrounds. To the extent the local job-market is strong, these young adults can also explore different possible lines of work. However, if someone moves to a totally new city, the one safety-net that makes a lot of this exploration possible -- the parental home to which one can boomerang -- won't be there.

Monday, September 25, 2017

NY Times Marriage Article Alludes to Emerging-Adulthood Themes

Today's New York Times article, "How Did Marriage Become a Mark of Privilege?", while focusing on marriage-rate differences by socioeconomic class, also incorporates discussion of the transition to adulthood. A couple of key paragraphs from the article are as follows:

Americans across the income spectrum still highly value marriage, sociologists have found. But while it used to be a marker of adulthood, now it is something more wait to do until the other pieces of adulthood are in place — especially financial stability. For people with less education and lower earnings, that might never happen. 

College graduates are more likely to plot their lives methodically — vetting people they date until they’re sure they want to move in with them, and using birth control to delay childbirth until their careers are underway.

Indeed, as Jeff Arnett showed in a 2001 Journal of Adult Development article, only around 13% of midwestern U.S. respondents considered getting married as something that was necessary for adulthood (this figure did not differ much by respondent age). The other portions of the description, about planning and vetting, fit a standard description of emerging adulthood.

Like marriage, emerging adulthood is also linked to SES. As Katherine Newman (2012) notes in her book The Accordion Family, the better-off a family, the more capable it is of supporting emerging-adult pursuits such as unpaid internships. Some of the ideas given in the Times article for facilitating marriage among those less well-off, such as affordable housing for young adults, would also likely provide a stable base for emerging-adulthood-type exploration in the areas of work and romantic relationships.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Chicago School System Aims to Expedite Graduates' Career Planning

According to this Vox article:

Chicago Public Schools has a new requirement for its 435,000 students: To graduate, they must prove they have a post-graduation plan. That means a college acceptance letter, a job offer, military orders, or enrollment in a job training program.

In many observers' view, emerging adulthood best serves as a time of intentional exploration, in which individuals contemplate and try out different educational and career pathways, en route to finding ones that embody their "true selves." This period of life, however, can also involve what some would consider unproductive use of time (e.g., heavy drinking, excessive media usage) and floundering.

Chicago's plan can be seen as an attempt to direct more students toward a purposeful trajectory. Vox quotes an important point from city school official Janice Jackson: “In schools with high levels of support, every child was already walking out with a postsecondary plan... There are schools where we need to push a little bit more.”

College attendance is not simply a matter of skills and motivation. Financial considerations and what many teens consider an intimidating process of applying to college and for financial aid, also can determine whether a student ends up at a university. Chicago is seeking to combine its new graduation requirement with extra counselors and other resources to help students find their way.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Detailed Analyses of Rent Assistance Emerging Adults Receive From Parents

The New York Times's "Upshot" quantitative analysis crew delves into the amount of rent assistance individuals in their early 20s receive from their parents. The article includes comparisons by where the grown children are living and the type of career they are pursuing.

Naturally, parents give more assistance when their children are living in big cities. Also, "Those in the art and design fields get the most help, an average of $3,600 a year... [Whereas] some jobs in science, technology, engineering, management and law have clearer and more substantial payoffs after years of internships and postgraduate training, ... pay in art, design and education is low in the early years, and for some people, it remains low."

These findings remind me a little of Richard Florida's ideas regarding cities as magnets for individuals in the "creative class."