Waiting to Launch

Every generation of human beings has taken a look at the generation that’s following them, their own children, and shaken their collective heads. They wonder, “What are these young folks thinking?” while conveniently forgetting that their decision-making was questioned as much, or more, by their parent’s generation. So it’s not surprising that the young adults of today are different from their parents, but what is shocking is how differently young adults today – the oft written about millennials – view the world than their parents – the oft written about Baby Boomers and oft-forgotten Gen Xers.

Those differences are explored in a report from the US Census Bureau titled The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood from 1975 to 2016. Here are some highlights:

  • Most of today’s Americans believe that educational and economic accomplishments are extremely important milestones of adulthood. In contrast, marriage and parenthood rank low: over half of Americans believe that marrying and having children are not very important in order to become an adult.
  • Young people are delaying marriage, but most still eventually tie the knot. In the 1970s, 8 in 10 people married by the time they turned 30. Today, not until the age of 45 have 8 in 10 people married.
  • More young people today live in their parents’ home than in any other arrangement: 1 in 3 young people, or about 24 million 18- to 34-year olds, lived in their parents’ home in 2015.
  • In 2005, the majority of young adults lived independently in their own household, which was the predominant living arrangement in 35 states. A decade later, by 2015, the number of states where the majority of young people lived independently fell to just six. Of the top five states where the most young adults lived independently in 2015, all were in Midwest and Plains states.
  • More young men are falling to the bottom of the income ladder. In 1975, 25 percent of young men ages 25 to 34 had incomes of less than $30,000 per year. By 2016, that share rose to 41 percent of young men (incomes for both years are in 2015 dollars).
  • Between 1975 and 2016, the share of young women who were homemakers fell from 43 percent to 14 percent of all women ages 25 to 34.
  • Of young people living in their parents’ home, 1 in 4 are idle, that is they neither go to school nor work. This figure represents about 2.2 million 25- to 34-year-olds. Among other characteristics, these young adults are more likely to have a child, so they may be caring for family, and over one quarter have a disability of some kind.

Obviously, these trends are having a tremendous impact on the apartment industry. More young adults living at home means fewer living in apartments now, but since they are marrying later they might still be apartment renters until they start families. It’s a mixed-bag in terms of figuring out what it means for apartment providers, but one thing is certain: since this is the largest generation our country has ever seen how they live WILL have a significant impact on the industry.