WASHINGTON – Across the country young adults today, often called the millennial generation, are more likely to be foreign born and speak a language other than English at home, compared with young adults in 1980 and in Oswego County they are more likely to earn less and live in poverty than they did thirty years ago.
Relying on the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest statistics from the American Community Survey released today, Census Bureau demographer Jonathan Vespa noted the data between generations examined reflects long-term demographic and societal changes.
“Three decades of decennial census statistics combined with the latest American Community Survey statistics give us a unique view of how — and where — our nation is changing. In this case, we can look at the changing characteristics of young adults over the last few decades,” Vespa said.
Some of those changes are illustrated in characteristics of the young adult population (age 18-34) across decades using data from the 1980, 1990 and 2000 Censuses and the 2009-2013 American Community Survey.
The 73 million young adults currently 18 to 34 years old, often referred to as millennials, comprised the largest such population in the last three decades.
Nonetheless, Census reports show their share of the population is actually smaller today than in 1980, when the young adult population included the baby boomers born between1946 and 1964.
The baby boom is distinguished by a dramatic increase in birth rates following World War II and comprises one of the largest generations in U.S. history.
In 1980, 30% of the population was age 18 to 34, compared with 23% percent today. Oswego County falls within that range with 31% in 1980 and 23% today.
One of the most apparent changes in the demographic of young adults across the country are those who are foreign born. That number has more than doubled since 1980 (15% versus 6%) although the rate is Oswego County has increased by less than 1%.
The Census data also shows that more millennials are living in poverty today, and they have lower rates of employment, compared with their counterparts in 1980.
The report defines one in five young adults lives in poverty (13.5 million people), up from one in seven (8.4 million people) in 1980. In Oswego County that number is currently 26.2%, or one in four. In 1980 that number was 14.3%, or roughly one in seven.
Today, 65 percent of young adults are employed, down from 69 percent in 1980.
Oswego County’s 57% in 1980 was eclipsed by the 2000 rate of 66% but that rate fell to a low of 58.5% for the current reporting period of 2009 to 2013.
In Oswego County, the median earning power for full time workers aged 18 to 34 has also seen a steady decline. From the high of $38,907 per year median income in 1980 – during the final phase of construction at Nine Mile Point and when the county’s median rate outpaced the state and the nation, to the current low of $30,854 which falls $3,000 below the national median and $8,450 less pay per year than the New York State median.
Prior generations of young adults were more likely to have ever served in the armed services: 9 percent were veterans in 1980, compared with 2 percent today.
But some things have not changed.
Young adults continue to rely on a car to get to work. About eight in 10 drive to work, which is largely unchanged compared with 1980. Alabama has the highest share (95%); New York has the lowest (53%) and Oswego County young adult drivers remain 86% to 90% strong in their cohort over the last 30 years.