Thursday, October 21, 2004

Extended Adolescence

Joanne Jacobs points out that growing up is hard to do and links to this USA Today article about extended adolescence:
"In the 1970s, a bachelor's degree could launch a career and support a family. Not anymore. Now, graduate school is almost a necessity and that means greater expenses, often when students are still saddled with college loans. More years of schooling also mean a delay entering the workforce. In this down economy, there's also stiffer competition for jobs. Financial independence is but a dream for many."


Rob said...

More from Doug Manning

October 4, 2004

Growing Up Later 

I regularly read the 'Career Pro News', a great little news service provided by Bridges Transitions. Everything a career professional ever wanted to know is featured here - emerging work opportunities, recent studies and trends, conferences in your favorite climate, etc., all gathered from various web news sources and presented daily.

Last Friday, they featured an article in USA Today, called 'It's Time to Grow Up - Later', and subtitled: 'The gap between adolescence and adulthood gets longer'. Fascinating article. Here's some of the astounding statistics presented:
"U.S. Census data shows a sharp decline in the percentage of young adults who have finished school, left home, gotten married, had a child and reached financial independence, considered typical standards of adulthood. In 2000, 46% of women and 31% of men had reached those markers by age 30, vs. 77% of women and 65% of men at the same age in 1960. "

"According to Twentysomething Inc., a market researcher that tracks youth trends, 65% of this year's grads expect to live with their parents after earning degrees."

"College completed by people 25 and older (in millions)
4 or more years: 1970: 12.0 2003: 50.4
1-3 years: 1970: 11.2 2003: 46.9 "

Where does a person start, discussing the implications of these stats? The definitions of 'generation' just got longer and 'family' just got more diverse. The majority of 30-year old women and more than 2/3 of 30-year old men are still dependents. Skills shortages are pending and a majority of the replacements are in a second decade of considering their options. Can it be long before aging parents visit their doctors, complaining of 'full nest syndrome'? Can anyone in their right mind still be advising students that college training is a guarantee of employment?

It is romantic to think of this generation as individualists, each rejecting the legacy of the last generation and proactively creating a new reality for the next one. In truth, a majority of the 20-something generation is lost, trapped somewhere between a rapidly changing world of choice and a lifetime of having others make choices for them. It is a world of choice and change and too few are choosing.

The truth is that many youth feel no urgency to commit to relationships, employers, or lifestyle. They prefer the 'free agent' path, saving commitment for some later time undefined. "We're here for a good time, not a long time, so have a good time, the sun can't shine everyday," they sing. This, of course, is a fabulous attitude until that 'long time' becomes today.

Clearly, "there's a storm a-brewing" in the generation under 30. There are going to be more winners and more losers in this delayed generation, and less in-betweens. The characteristics of 21st century winners are clear, they will walk farther from the herd, follow their hearts, recognize pending skills shortages, and develop capacities to fill those needs. 21st century losers will avoid commitment, follow the herd, increase their dependencies, and live their existence day-to-day. A polarized society will not be good for the spirit of our nation.

There hasn't been this potential for opportunity presented to a generation since the 19th century rolled over to the 20th. Unfortunately, the unbridled opportunities that will unfold will be best accessed by those planning to be near the front of the line. It is my great hope that this delayed adolescence is just an inevitable phase of the changing essence of our culture. It is possible that youth will rebound, moving quickly to ready themselves for fulfillment and self-sustainability. This would be good for us all. No individual or culture has ever distinguished itself by sitting uncertainly on the fence.

Jeremy said...

I didn't realize that was the same article -- I had forgotten that Doug had posted it. Thanks for sharing his excellent insights, Rob.