Monday, August 30, 2010

What is it About 20 Somethings?

Ugh. So I was reading this article in the New York Times Magazine last week, and I just had to tell you it kind of infuriated me. Please read it and let me know what you think.

It boils down to this: kids today are putting off "adulthood" longer than 20 somethings did a generation ago. What's adulthood? A magical age? When you feel like a grown up? Apparently, there are five milestones that mark the transition to adulthood: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying, and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had reached all 5 milestones by the time they were 30. By 2000, less than half of the women and 1/3 of men had reached those same milestones by 30. I would not be surprised if the 2010 census data reflects even less.

But is that because 20 somethings are entitled or lazy? I don't think so. I mean, of course, I'm a twenty-something and I'm going to stand up for my age group. First off, the economy is really to blame. I really think having one of the worst economies in a generation is a ripple effect for everything else - how can you leave home when your job barely pays you enough to live (if you even have a job)? On top of that, are you going to be attracting potential mates from your childhood bedroom? Probably not. And don't even think about bringing a baby into that mess.

I'm going to look at the positive aspects of not achieving these milestones - first off, many 20 somethings are "putting off" getting a job right out of school to do something altruistic, like AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, or getting involved in other national and international service groups. The rate of service has exploded in the last 20 years. Also, I'd like to think that marrying older (the average age for marriage now is 26 for women and 28 for men, compared to 21 for women and 23 for men in the early 70's) would mean you're better prepared emotionally to handle the responsibilities and the seriousness of marriage. The divorce rate hovers around 50% - maybe because of the 20 somethings holding out, the divorce rate will start to go down in the next 10-20 years. By waiting to have children until you're older, parents are more likely to be financially stable, as well as prepared for the intense and lifelong commitment to be good parents. When did waiting because you're preparing become a bad thing?

What do you all think? Do you think that 20 somethings are putting off becoming adults or do you think they're taking time to make decisions that will impact the course of their lives?


  1. I agree with your observations. I only got to page 6 of the article. Holy moly psycho babble :)

    But I think the economy is going to ultimately bring about the second baby boom when things start turning around.

  2. I think the milestones are outdated and reflect traditional moral values. Getting married and having kids are not time dependent and should be dropped. Financial independence and independent living are the key markers of adulthood IMO. And yeah, 10 years of bad economy will make those things hard to accomplish...

  3. I've accomplished all but 1 of the items to be an adult for 30 -- guess I'm less typical according to this article.

    And yes, I too think a bad economy is mainly to blame fore people not being financially independent.

    As far as kids/marriage go -- think some of that has to do with being the "me" generation and some of it has to do with us not wanting to make the mistakes our parents did.

  4. I think the article is right about how many people in their 20's move back home and put off getting into careers. Economy trouble or not, I've seen that with my friends. BUT I know plenty of people who would meet the criteria if you dropped the last two. I would love to get married and have kids, but it just hasn't happened for me yet. I don't think that makes me less of an adult though, it's just timing.

  5. Thanks everyone for the great comments - it's pretty clear I wasn't alone in thinking that 20 somethings aren't all lazy and lack motivation.

    @LBC Teacher - I also know some people in their 20s who move back home, but every single one I personally know has done it because a) they can't find a job or b) they can't afford to live on their own with the job they do have. I'm sure there are definitely those who don't have the two mentioned predicaments, but that's just what I know.

    And I also agree about marriage/kids being a more old-school sign of adulthood. There are many people out there who actively choose to not get married or to not have kids, and that doesn't make them any less of an adult. Plus, there's many people who legally can't get married in most states, and I don't think that makes my gay and lesbian friends less of adults.