A new report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics finds today’s young adults have made some important gains. Compared to previous generations, adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are more likely to graduate from high school and also to attend college. Hispanics, of all the racial and ethnic groups, have shown the greatest advancement in this area, with college enrollment increasing among their ranks from about 22 percent in 2000 to 37.5 percent today.
The report, America’s Young Adults: Special Issue, 2014, also finds this generation of young adults to be more racially and ethnically diverse, and less likely to smoke than previous generations. In fact, during 2012, just 20 percent of young men and 15 percent of young women smoked cigarettes, however, white young adults are more than twice as likely to smoke as Hispanics and blacks their same age.
The report also highlighted some negatives impacting the lives of all young adults today. Compared to the past, they have more student debt while also earning less than their counterparts in the year 2000. Specifically, the average total debt carried by fourth year students during the 2011-2012 school year was $25,400, up from $14,700 for 1989–1990 school year, after adjusting for inflation. And, in terms of health, more than one in five are obese.
“This report is a rich snapshot of the health, education, and well-being of America’s young adults,” said Evelyn Kappeler, director of the Office of Adolescent Health. “Overall, we cheer the gains being made in education, but also note the need to address health concerns such as the smoking, obesity, and depression levels among this population.”
The young adults themselves will probably focus more on the economic findings and lifestyle choices reported. The employment rate for young adults was just 65 percent in 2012, compared to a peak rate of 75 percent in 1986 and 74 percent in 2000. Perhaps it is for this reason more than 58 percent of young men and 51 percent of young women lived with their parents in 2013. Plus, the birth rate for young women has reached an historic low. The rate for women between the ages of 18 and 19 was about 51 for every 1,000 in 2012, down from 94 for every 1,000 in 1991. A similar decline was seen for the birth rate among women between the ages of 20 and 24; it fell from 117 for every 1,000 in 1990 to 83 for every 1,000 in 2012.