12 Curious Statistics about Today’s Young Adults

I hope to blog next week, or sometime thereafter, on the subject of affordable housing. But it’s just not on paper yet, so in lieu of that, I decided to just crunch some numbers from a very recent nationally-representative survey of 18-39-year-olds in America. Here are 12 interesting (to me, at least) statistics from that survey. What you read below is what a large population-based, random-selection survey says about young adults today. Why these 10? No particular reason. I just sat down with the questionnaire and started crunching away. Survey nerds love to do this sort of thing. We’re learning about America, after all. These are simple statistics, by the way. They’re not meant to imply causation, but rather to arouse your attention.

1. Bullying appears to be diminishing: whereas 31 percent of 18-23-year-olds reported having been bullied during their youth, the same is true of 36 percent of 24-32-year-olds and 41 percent of 33-39-year-olds.

2. Just over 20 percent of the sample said that they were currently receiving some form of public assistance.

3. Just over 31 percent of the sample said that during the past year there was a time when they did not have health insurance.

4. Only 26 percent of young adults said that their current or most recent primary job “is achieving my long-term career or work goals.”

5. The modal answer to a question about how much sleep do you get on an average night was “7 hours.” Indeed, 78 percent of young adults said they get between 6 and 8 hours of sleep a night. Good to hear, I guess.

6. Just under 15 percent of young adults said they were “nothing/atheist/agnostic” when asked about their religion. That’s pretty much in keeping with General Social Survey estimates of the same, if I recall.

7. When asked to compare their activity level in organized religion today with while they were growing up, 51 percent said they were less active than before, while only 13 percent said more active. The rest reported a comparable level.

8. When asked whether “single mothers do just as good a job raising children as a married mother and father,” 44 percent of young adults agreed, 29 percent were unsure, and 23 percent disagreed.

9. But when asked whether “it is better for children to be raised in a household that has a married mother and father,” 65 percent agreed, 20 percent were unsure, and only 11 percent disagreed, indicating that while younger adults continue to think that this arrangement is optimal, they’re also quite comfortable saying it’s not necessary (or something like that).

10. While there may indeed be a Democratic party preference at work today among young women, the inclination doesn’t show up when asked, “In terms of politics, do you consider yourself very conservative, conservative, middle-of-the-road, liberal, or very liberal?” When sorted by gender, the results are nearly indistinguishable. The parties should fight over the middle-of-the-road folks, because 50 percent of the respondents selected that category, compared with only four and five percent (respectively) who selected “very conservative” and “very liberal.” Perhaps this is why it feels like there is more “spin” these days, since so many moderates are at stake.

11. The modal category of “number of Facebook friends you have” is between 100-200. Only about 10 percent say they have more than 500, while 19 percent said they weren’t on Facebook at all.

12. Finally, 15 percent of young men, when asked when they had last masturbated, said “today.” Which is an answer category that is distinctive from “yesterday,” which was selected by an additional 19 percent of men. I guess that tells us at least one thing: that most of the men who completed the survey probably did so at some point in the evening. If most had completed the survey before noon, one should expect the “today” number to be much closer to, say, 10 percent.

What would a Regnerus blog be without some reference to sex, right? There you have it.

  • j smith

    Interesting stuff. Shocked that so many (20%) are non-FaceBookers. I wonder how many aren’t on myspace etc either.

    What’s the name of the survey? Thanks!

  • Terri Barnes

    Thanks for the stats, but that number for the non-religious seems off. General Social Surveys has the number of non-affliated at 26% for 18-29 year olds and 21% for the next generation. 15% seems a little low unless that is counting complete non-believers.

    • Mark Regnerus

      Terri, I will take your word for what the GSS is currently showing. The survey I described asked the question about religion a little differently than does the GSS, which (again, if I recall) tallies “none” answers to their question “What is your religious preference?” The survey I cited asks respondents a slightly different question with–importantly–different answer categories. We asked, “What is your present religion?” And they could respond with:

      1=Nothing/atheist/agnostic
      2=Protestant (such as Methodist, Presbyterian, Assembly of God, Baptist, Lutheran, non-denominational Christian, etc.)
      3=Catholic
      4=Other Christian
      5=Jewish
      6=Buddhist
      7=Hindu
      8=Muslim
      9=Spiritual but not religious
      10=Other: ________________________
      98=don’t know

      (Then a series of follow-ups for different categories…)

      The GSS doesn’t distinguish spiritual-but-not-religious in their initial question (I think, correct me if I’m wrong). So it’s possible that the survey I administered added an answer option that, were it not present, would have boosted the agnostic/atheist/nothing pool. Seven percent of the sample selected “spiritual but not religious,” so that’s 22 percent if you tack on the agnostic/atheist/nothing’s. Not far from 25.

      And they’re frankly different surveys administered in different ways.

      • Terri Barnes

        Thank you for the update, Mr. Regnerus. I appreciate it.

  • Anar

    Number 7 could be a good thing. It could be that being more active in organized religion when younger means attending Sunday School, Church service, Wednesday night event, youth group, and youth retreats. Being less active in organized religion when older may mean just attending a Church service and a home group. This frees up more time to be out on mission engaging the greater culture. I see increased activity level with an organized religion as not always a good thing a leading to ingrown environments.


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