Demographics, Work, Earnings, Relationships


Fact: 67 million Americans were between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2005. Profile of young adults, 2000 

Compared with those entering adulthood in the 1970s and 1980s, 18-24 year olds in the late 1990s were:

  • more racially and ethnically diverse. Almost 20% of young adults aged 25-34 were born outside the United States.
  • much less likely to have been reared in an intact, two-parent family
  • more likely to have never married;
  • have the lowest earnings of all three time periods
    [Source: Tom Smith, in On the Frontier of Adulthood: Smith chapter brief: pdf]


Young adults living with parents, 1985-2009 (chart, pdf)

Single males living at home by race-age, 1900-2000 (chart, pdf)

Single women living at home by race-age, 1900-2000 (chart, pdf)

Share of young adults living w parents, 1970 & 2000  (chart, pdf)

**For more information, see Future of Children (spring 2010) for an issue devoted to the transition to adulthood.

Fact: Since the 1970s, there has been a 50% increase in the number of young adults in their 20s living at home, which alone has led to a 19% increase in shared housing costs incurred by parents. [Schoeni. pdf]


GROWING DIVERSITY (see Table 1 in Rumbaut and Komaie)

  • Nearly one of every five Americans aged 18-34 today is an immigrant—and almost one of every four Americans aged 25-34 was born outside the United States.



Fact: Median age of first marriage is notable older.
1900: median age: 22 (women), 26 (men)
1956: age 20.1 (women), 22.5 (men)
2006: age 25.3 (women), 27.1 (men)

  • Half (51%) of all young adults in 2006 aged 18-34 had never married, and only one-third (32%) had children.  Just over one-third (36%) were married, another 8% were cohabiting, and 5% were divorced or separated.
  • Married or cohabiting by age, 2006 
    Age 18-24: 20.4% was married or cohabiting
    Age 25-29: 55%
    Age 30-34: 69%

    Parenthood, 2006 
    Age 18-24: 11% had children
    Age 25-29: 37%
    Age 30-35: 57%

    (source: Tables 1 & 3 in Rumbaut and Komaie)


  • 22% of 18–24-year-olds had not yet completed high school in 2005
  • Women are more likely to gain a bachelor’s degree than men: 18.2% vs. 14.6%
    Women are also more likely to gain an advanced degree than men: 5.4% vs. 4.1%
  • Asians are most likely to have a bachelor’s or advanced degree (Table 13).
  • Hispanics aged 18-34 are most likely to have less than a high school education. Hispanic males (40.8%) are twice as likely as black males (18.5%) to have less than a high school degree (Table 13). However, social mobility increases with time in the United States. Slightly more than one-half of first-generation Hispanics have no high school degree, but that declines to 29% in the second generation and 21% in the third generation (Table 16).
  • The higher the education, the fewer children and the higher one’s income (Table 11).
  • Nearly three in ten (28%) young women (aged 18-24) with less than a high school degree had children, while only 3% of those with a bachelor’s degree had children.
    (SOURCE: see Tables 1, 3, 11, 13, 16 in Rumbaut and Komaie)



Percent of men and women aged 25-34 with a job, by education  

(click thumbnail for larger image)
Source: Annual March Current Population Survey, public use data, U.S. Census Bureau

Median earnings for men and women, aged 25-34, by education

(click thumbnail for larger image)
Source: Annual March Current Population Survey, public use data, U.S. Census Bureau

Employment Population Ratio, by Age 
(source: Sullivan & Ray, Young Invincibles brief)

  • Age 20-24: 68% were employed in December 2007. By June 2010, that had fallen to about 60%, the lowest since WWII.
  • Age 25-29: 79% were employed in Dec. 2007, falling to approximately 74% in June 2010.

Average annual incomes among those working, 2005 (see Tables 3 & 4 in Rumbaut and Komaie)

Age 18-24: $15,533
Age 25-29: $30,330
Age 30-34: $37,871
Total Age Group (18-34): $27,458

  • Based on prior year (2004) annual incomes, 18% of young adults age 18-24 had household incomes below the poverty line compared with a poverty rate of 12% for those ages 25-34.
  • Among those employed, women work in fields with higher occupational statuses than men. However, at every age group among those employed, men have higher earnings than women, with the earnings gap widening with age.



Select profile of young adults in 2006 by region of the country, including poverty, earnings, employment, education. Click here for accompanying figures and tables 

[source: Rumbaut et al., Demographic Profile of Young Adults in the Five Cities]

    • Following national trends, poverty among young adults is highest in the South
    • Risk of poverty is highest among the youngest adults (18-24); poverty is highest in the South, regardless of age group
    • Hispanics now outnumber blacks nationally, driven mainly by large Hispanic presence in West and to a lesser extent, the Northeast
    • Rates of living with parents are highest in Northeast
    • South has fewest young adults in school, NE has most in school
    • More women than men aged 18-34 are married and have children. Young adults in NE are least likely to be married or have children; those in the South are most likely
    • Young adults in the NE are more likely to work in higher status jobs while those in the Midwest more often work in low-wage jobs
    • Family income is higher in the NE, although personal earnings of young adults are fairly similar across the regions.



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