Millennials today are making very, very different decisions than their parents did in 1975, according to a new report released by the U.S. Census Bureau earlier this month. Young adults 18 to 34 years old today live with their parents more frequently and often struggle with higher amounts of debt, but also hold pretty high expectations for when they should be hitting different life milestones. Considering the financial burdens young adults face today and their shifting priorities, it's perhaps not surprising that millennials are waiting to have kids until later on in life.
In 1976, 85 percent of women were married before they hit 29 years old, and over two-thirds — a total of 69 percent — were moms by age 30. The average age of women's first marriage has since moved from age 22 to 27, with only 46 percent marrying by 29 and only half of them having children before age 30.
These shifts aren't surprising, considering young adults' changing priorities: Americans are consistently prioritizing getting an education and achieving financial stability before they start families. And while young adults today believe that they should be done with their degrees and be financially able to support a family by 25, that's not exactly what's happening.
These days, young adults expect to be financially stable and well-educated before starting families, but only about one in two millennials actually manages to wrap up a degree by age 22. One in three young adults (from 18 to 34 years old) still relies on their parents for financial assistance. More millennials are living in debt, and they're deeper in debt, as well: 41 percent of young adults today have student debt, and they owe an average of $17,300. In 1989, only 17 percent of young adults was saddled with student debt, and their loans sat at an average of $6,000.
"The onramp to middle class takes a lot longer than it did before," Anthony Carnevale, director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, told NBC News on Thursday.
It's not that young adults no longer want to marry or have children — it's just that they're prioritizing obtaining an education and a stable job first. That's a great thing overall, and more young people are earning college degrees today than their parents did. It's just that in today's economy, with both debt increasing and incomes falling, it's taking millennials a little longer to feel financially secure enough to bring on the engagement rings and baby showers.