We’re in the thick of what one sociologist calls “the changing timetable for adulthood.” Sociologists traditionally define the “transition to adulthood” as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child. In 1960, 77 percent of women and 65 percent of men had, by the time they reached 30, passed all five milestones. Among 30-year-olds in 2000, according to data from the United States Census Bureau, fewer than half of the women and one-third of the men had done so. A Canadian study reported that a typical 30-year-old in 2001 had completed the same number of milestones as a 25-year-old in the early ’70s.
So societal norms established in the 1950′s heydey of depression and repression are crumbling. I dislike the implication that waiting until you’re emotionally and financially ready to take on the burdens of a private residence, marriage, or dependent is somehow retarding American culture, though. Turns out the entire global economic and educational system is a bit different, too. Maybe that has something to do with it.