“Emerging Adults” – extending childhood government style

During WWII it wasn’t unusual for young men of 20 – 22 to be leading units into battle. Talk about growing up fast. Previous generations started families and careers in their early 20’s (myself included). According to this piece (from NY Times Magazine), today’s young folks often don’t reach full maturity until their 30’s and beyond. The long and tedious article details how sociologists are labeling today’s 20-somethings “Emerging Adults.”

The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once. They go through an average of seven jobs in their 20s, more job changes than in any other stretch. Two-thirds spend at least some time living with a romantic partner without being married. And marriage occurs later than ever. The median age at first marriage in the early 1970s, when the baby boomers were young, was 21 for women and 23 for men; by 2009 it had climbed to 26 for women and 28 for men, five years in a little more than a generation.

We’re in the thick of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had, by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones. Among 30-year-olds in 2000, according to data from the United States Census Bureau, fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so. A Canadian study reported that a typical 30-year-old in 2001 had completed the same number of milestones as a 25-year-old in the early ’70s.

John J. Miller (from NRO) has a far better analysis in this brief piece.

The article suggests that we must recognize a new “life stage” known as “emerging adulthood,” in which people who are adults but have not yet fully matured must engage in “identity exploration” and embrace their “sense of possibilities.” You know: Anything but finding a steady job, a good mate, and starting a family. It’s basically an excuse to put off adult responsibilities until after you’ve turned 30, gussied up by people with Ph.D.s.I’ll save the lectures on growing up for my own kids. If others want to defer adulthood until after a big portion of it has passed away, that’s their business. Yet it turns out that “emerging adulthood” could cost the public dearly because behind the discovery of this “life stage” is a call for federal spending:

How about expanding programs like City Year, in which 17- to 24-year-olds from diverse backgrounds spend a year mentoring inner-city children in exchange for a stipend, health insurance, child care, cellphone service and a $5,350 education award? Or a federal program in which a government-sponsored savings account is created for every newborn, to be cashed in at age 21 to support a year’s worth of travel, education or volunteer work — a version of the “baby bonds” program that Hillary Clinton mentioned during her 2008 primary campaign? Maybe we can encourage a kind of socially sanctioned “­rumspringa,” the temporary moratorium from social responsibilities some Amish offer their young people to allow them to experiment before settling down. It requires only a bit of ingenuity — as well as some societal forbearance and financial commitment — to think of ways to expand some of the programs that now work so well for the elite, like the Fulbright fellowship or the Peace Corps, to make the chance for temporary service and self-examination available to a wider range of young people. [emphasis added]

More programs! More programs! More programs! Not for the sake of “the children”–but for the sake of “the emerging adults.”

More things that make you just wanna say UGH…


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