Children of the 1980s, You are so Not Like Today’s Kids

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Last month, the National Center for Education Statistics released a new report detailing numerous changes in the demographic and behavioral patterns of America’s youth over the last 30 years.

“America’s Youth: Transitions to Adulthood,” published by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, finds many differences between the youth — described in the study as those between the ages of 14-24 — of today, and their peers from 10, 20 and 30 years ago.

The report states that while there are approximately 1 million more youth in the United States than three decades ago, the overall population percentage of the nation’s youth shrunk from 20 percent in 1980 to just 15 percent in 2010.

The report,  Susan Aud, Angelina KewalRamani and Lauren Froehlich, also notes that the youth of today are more likely to be enrolled in school than the youth of 30 years ago, with 52 percent of the nation’s 20- and 21-year-olds currently enrolled in college, compared to only 31 percent in 1980. According to the report, the number of young adults whose highest education level was a high school degree dropped from 46 percent to 29 percent over the last 30 years. At the same time, the percentage of young adults that have completed at least some amount of college course work has leapt from 25 to 36 percent.

Researchers state that there are fewer males in the 20-24 age demographic in the labor force than in 1980, with the percentages dropping from 86 percent to 75 percent in 2010. Additionally, the report finds that young adults with bachelor’s degrees or higher in 2009 had median earnings that were $15,000 higher than their peers that did not complete high school. However, a wage gap of almost $9,000 was found to currently exist between male and females with equivalent college degrees.

The report states that fewer young adults are householders — meaning owners or renters of their own home — in 2010 than in 1980, with the percentage dropping from 38 to 19 percent over the last 30 years. The report finds more than 20 percent of the nation’s 18- to 24-year olds were living in poverty in 2009.

According to the researchers, the youth of today are more enthusiastic about education than the youth of 30 years prior. Between 2004 and 1972, the number of high school seniors with expectations of earning a graduate or professional degree rose from 13 percent to 38 percent, with the number of students that believe they are incapable of graduating from high school dropping from 19 percent to just 5 percent.



One thought on “Children of the 1980s, You are so Not Like Today’s Kids

  1. This seems like a natural trend for how education will be regarded in the near future. Our world is rapidly increasing the complexity of all types of technology at a furious pace. Higher education is the only solution to the problems that will come with such circumstances. I’m currently working towards my online Master of Education at this site: and as a future teacher, I welcome the coming challenges that this technocratic society will undoubtedly require.