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WhyIt's Harder for Young Adults in the US to Hit Key Milestones Than Past Generations

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By Christian Webster - - 5 Mins Read
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According to a new study by Pew Research Center, it is much harder for today's young adults to reach certain milestones compared to the past generations.


According to the research paper, "Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to find out how many young adults in the United States today are reaching key life milestones and compare this with the experiences of young adults in 1980." 


They mentioned their area of focus while conducting the study was centered on the five main areas of milestones for young adults, including having a full-time job, being financially independent, living on their own, getting married, and having a child. This study showed that young adults in the United States are reaching key life milestones much slower than their predecessors in the last 40 years. 


These research papers said that at 21, young adults in the United States are less likely to reach these five milestones than their predecessors in the 1980s. However, it noted that by the time these young adults are about 25, they might have achieved two milestones at the same time as their predecessors from the 1980s.


These two milestones include having a full-time job and financial independence. According to the most recent data from 2021, about 39% of 21-year-olds in the United States were working full-time. Compared to the 1980s, about 64% of 21-year-olds already had full-time jobs. In comparison, this shows the income of youths of today is at least 150% of the poverty line compared to 42% in the 1980s. 

Why is this Happening? 

From the same study, the primary contributor to decreasing life milestone achievement among youths is the changes in young adults' development. Nowadays, more young adults are enrolling in college than what was recorded in the 1980s. Almost half of the 21-year-olds (48%) in the United States are enrolled in college, while only about three-in-ten (31%) were enrolled in 1980. 

A group of young persons sitting on a table

But when other milestones are compared, 21-year-olds of today are lagging. The 2021 study showed half of the 21-year-olds (51%) were living somewhere other than their parent's home within the same year.


Compared to those living in the 1980s, 62% of them already lived outside their parents' homes. Also, when childbearing is compared, only about 6 % of 21-year-olds have had a child of their own in 2021. Compared to their predecessors in the 1980s, the numbers ranged from 18 to 32 percent. 

25-Year-olds Also Behind Their Predecessor 

Comparing their numbers, 25-year-olds are also lagging compared to their predecessors of the last four decades. However, their numbers were significantly lower than that of 21-year-olds. In 2021, only about two-thirds of 25-year-olds (66%) were working full time, while about 73% were already working full time in the 1980s. Also, only about 60% of 25-year-olds are financially independent compared to 63% in the 1980s. 


When genders are compared, females are doing considerably better than their predecessors of the 1980s in many areas. Today's 25-year-old women are more likely to work full-time than their predecessors in the 1980s. On the other hand, today's men are less likely to reach these numbers compared to their predecessors.