Demographics of Today’s Young Adults Show Shift From Earlier Generations

Young Idahoans today differ considerably from previous generations in demographics, attitudes and behaviors. Like their peers across the United States, they are more likely to be college graduates and more likely to be living with their parents. They are postponing marriage, childbearing and home ownership. Their behavior affects the construction industry; makers and sellers of appliances, furniture, wedding services, and household items; manufacturers and retailers for toys, diapers and other children’s products; the quality of Idaho’s current labor force; and the size of its future labor force.

Delaying marriage

Today’s young adults are waiting longer to marry. In 1960, only 3.1 percent of Idaho women aged 25 to 34 had never married.  By 2010, 23.3 percent had never married. The next age cohort shows a similar pattern. In 1960, only 2 percent of women aged 35 to 45 years had never married. By 2010, 9.7 percent had never married.


Postponing children

Today’s young women are waiting longer to have children as they delay marriage and as they spend more time in school. The more education a woman has, the later she tends to marry and have children. In 1970, the average age of an Idaho woman when she bore her first child was 20.8. By 2014, it was 24.6, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Idaho women, on average, are younger than women nationwide are when they have their first child. In 1970, the mean age for first-time motherhood in the U.S. was 21. By 2014, it was 26.3.

The increased age of women giving birth to first children reflects both a drop in teenagers having babies and a tendency for more women to wait until their late 20s or even 30s before they bring a child into the world. Teen childbearing has been generally on a long-term decline. In 1960, for every thousand girls 15 to 19 years of age, there were 98.8 births. The rate declined to 61.1 in 1980, 51 in 1990, and 24.2 by 2016, according to Idaho Vital Statistics reports.

Not only are today’s young women waiting longer to have children, they also are having fewer children. In 1960, 53.1 percent of births in Idaho were to mothers with more than two children. In 2016, that dropped to 37.1 percent.

A higher percentage of births today are out of wedlock, although there has been a slight decrease in that percentage in the past few years, largely due to the decrease in teen pregnancies.

“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,” stated in the Census Bureau’s 2017 special report titled “Young Adults Delay Milestones of Adulthood.” The report explained many young Americans postpone marriage and childbirth until they pursued higher education and then settle into a career.

Experiencing mixed results in the labor market

Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997, using the Pew Research Center definition) have experienced a very mixed bag with regard to employment. The very oldest members graduated from college before the financial crisis in 2007, and many of them and their cohorts who did not attend college were able to hold onto their jobs. But many of the next group found it extremely difficult to find and keep employment between 2008 and 2012. That prevented some of them entering their preferred careers or slowed their progress on their chosen career paths. The younger millennials have found it relatively easy to find work in the tight labor market of recent years.

Young women have found more success with employment and wages. Covered employment of young women in Idaho grew 41 percent between 1992 and 2017, while covered employment of young men grew 32 percent, according to the Census Bureau’s Quarterly Workforce Indicators. The average monthly pay of Idaho females 25 to 34 years old grew 13 percent, from $2,026 to $2,280, when adjusted for inflation and expressed in 2017 dollars – while the average monthly pay of Idaho males of the same age fell 3 percent, from $3,134 to $3,055.

Women are more educated

Today’s young women are considerably more educated than they were in the past, while young men’s educational attainment remains near its level of recent decades. The 2000 Census reported 21.3 percent of Idaho males 25 to 34 years old had earned bachelor’s degree or higher. In 2016, the American Community Survey estimated that had increased slightly to 22.7 percent. Young women with college degrees soared from 22.7 percent to 30.0 percent.

The increase in people attending college and a sharp rise in college tuitions has increased the number of young adults burdened by student debt. The Federal Reserve Bank shows the number of people in the U.S. with student loans at age 25 rose from 25 percent in 2004 to nearly 45 percent by 2016. The amount borrowers owed on student loans nearly tripled, rising from a median of $6,000 in 1989 to $17,300 in 2013, when adjusted for inflation and expressed in 2013 dollars. A U.S. Department of Education report showed that Idaho’s student loan debt totaled $5.7 billion in 2017 and that 198,000 Idahoans were carrying student loan debts. According to the Institute for College Access & Success, nationwide 68 percent of 2015 graduates with bachelor’s degrees had student loan debt, owing $30,100 on average. In Idaho, 71 percent of 2015 graduates had student loan debt, averaging $27,639.

Heavy student debt can prevent people from buying homes, reduces consumer spending and makes it harder to obtain the capital needed to start businesses.

More live in their parents’ homes

More young Americans today live in their parents’ home than in any other living arrangement. One in three people ages 18 to 34 lived in their parents’ home in 2015. In the report “Young Adulthood From 1975 to 2016,” Census Bureau analysts wrote, “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.”

Idaho also showed an increase in youth living with their parents, although proportionately more young Idahoans lived independently. In 1980, 14.1 percent of the population 18 to 34 years old lived with a parent. By 2015, 26.9 percent did. In 2005, 59.8 percent of Idahoans ages 18 to 34 lived independently, dropping to 49.1 percent 10 years later.

The Census report added, “Of young people living in their parents’ home, one in four are idle, that is they neither go to school nor work. … 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.”

Today, fewer young adults own their own homes than in earlier generations. In 2016, , 19.9 percent of Idaho householders aged 25 to 34 owned their own homes, compared to 26.3 percent in 2000, according to Census Bureau data.  It’s also important to remember that a smaller percentage of young adults are householders, since more are living with their parents. In 2000, 47.1 percent of young adults in Idaho were householders.  In 2016, it dropped to 43.3 percent., regional economist
Idaho Department of Labor
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