America’s Young Adults, 2014

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics (the Forum) recently released a statistical collection titled, America's Young Adults: Special Issue, 2014 (PDF, 100 pages). The report includes data about young adults, 18-24 years of age, from nationally representative, federally sponsored surveys. The data are summarized under five key themes: education; economic circumstances; family formation; civic, social, and personal behavior; and health and safety.

"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, in a press release highlighting the new report. "Overall, we cheer the gains being made in education but also note the need to address health concerns — such as the levels of smoking, obesity, and depression — among this population."

Here are some key findings from the report:

  • In 2012, 65 percent of young adults participated in the labor force, compared with the peak rate of 75 percent in 1986 and 74 percent in 2000. Learn more about youth employment.
  • In 2012, birth rates for young adults were at historic lows. The birth rate for women ages 18-19 was 51.4 per 1,000 in 2012, down from 94.0 per 1,000 in 1991. The birth rate for women ages 20-24 fell from 116.5 per 1,000 in 1990 to 83.1 per 1,000 in 2012. Learn more about teen pregnancy prevention.
  • Young adults are less likely to vote in congressional election years than in presidential election years. In the 2012 presidential election year, 38 percent of young adults voted, compared with 20 percent in the 2010 congressional election year. Learn more about youth civic engagement.
  • In 2012, 20 percent 2012, 20 percent of young men and 15 percent of young women smoked cigarettes. However, young White adults were still more than twice as likely to smoke as young Hispanic and Black adults. Learn more about youth substance use.
  • More young adults graduated from high school and earned college degrees in 2012 than in 2000.
  • Among 18- to 24-year-old Hispanics, college enrollment between 2000 and 2012 increased from 21.7 percent to 37.5 percent, the largest increase among all racial and ethnic groups.
  • The overall college enrollment rate for 18- to 24-year-olds increased from 26 percent in 1980 to 41 percent in 2012.
  • Continuing a trend since the early 1990s, females are enrolling in college in greater percentages than males. In 2012, 44.5 percent of females were enrolled in college compared with 37.6 percent of males.
  • The mean cumulative debt per fourth-year student for the 2011-2012 school year was $25,400, up from $14,700 for the 1989-1990 school year, after adjusting for inflation.
  • In 2012, approximately 522,000 young adults served on active duty in the armed forces.
  • In 2013, 58 percent of young men and 51 percent of young women lived with their parents.
  • Obesity increased among young adults between 1988-1994 and 1999-2002. But between 1999-2002 and 2007-2010, the rate of obesity did not change significantly. Between 2007 and 2010, young women (27 percent) were more likely to be obese than young men (19 percent).

The Forum is a collection of 22 federal agencies seeking to foster coordination and collaboration in the collection and reporting of federal data on children, youth, and families. The Forum also aims to improve the reporting and dissemination of information on the status of children and families.