More fun with statistics

Back by popular demand—and because frankly some weeks (months?) it is just plain challenging to pull new material together—are another dozen curious statistics about today’s young adults, from a new nationally-representative study of just under 3,000 18-39-year-olds.

1. Here’s an interesting one. We asked respondents whether their biological parents were ever married to each other. I got clever (I think) with the responses and acquired more than just a yes or no response. It turns out that 42 percent of this sample said that yes, there biological parents were and are still married today. An additional 29 percent said that yes they were, but are no longer due to separation or divorce; 10 percent said that yes they were, but that one or both of them is now deceased.

2. Another one on the basics—we asked about full siblings: 21 percent said they had no full brothers or sisters; 34 percent said one, and 24 percent said two. From there it drops dramatically: just under 10 percent said they had three siblings; half that said four, etc.

3. Just over 70 percent of the sample agreed that their family relationships “were safe, secure, and a source of comfort.”

4. One in three agreed that “there are matters from my family experience that I’m still having trouble coming to terms with.”

5. We asked a question that (sort of) tapped mentoring: “When you were growing up, was there an adult (other than a parent or step-parent) who did NOT live with you, but who you felt very close to, spent considerable time with, and who you think made an important positive difference in your life?” Just over 55 percent of the sample said no.

6. Among those that said yes to that question, we asked about the gender of that person or persons. For those who selected only one person, 65 percent said their mentor was a woman. Thus men are less likely to have a mentor, and less likely to be one to those who have had one.

7. When asked how hard they’d been hit financially by the recent economic recession, 22 percent said “extremely hard,” 27 percent said “somewhat hard,” 35 percent said “a little bit,” and 14 percent said “not at all.”

8. Just under 14 percent of 18-23-year-olds said they spent “4 hours or more” on social networking sites on a typical weekday. An additional 16 percent reported between two and four hours on them. That’s a fair chunk of time, I’d say. If people are so interesting, they should become a sociologist and get paid to pay attention to other people’s silly behavior.

9. When asked about attendance at religious services (not counting weddings, baptisms, and funerals), 29 percent of women and 34 percent of men said “never.” On the other end of the scale, 7 percent of women and 5 percent of men said “more than once a week” and 16 percent of each said “once a week.” I was expecting a slightly more skewed gender story there.

10. More women than men (17 vs. 10 percent) said it was “very characteristic of me” when asked if they “find it difficult to trust others completely” in romantic relationships.

11. More women than men (27 vs. 21 percent) said yes when asked if they think they have a bad temper.

12. More women than men (8.5 vs. 4.6 percent) said yes when asked whether they have seriously thought (in the past 12 months) about committing suicide.

Now, don’t get me wrong—the gender distinctions aren’t off the charts here, and I’m not testing for statistically significant differences in a quick blog post, but between these and other outcomes I haven’t listed here, it would appear that young women are expressing a bit higher levels of stress, anxiety, and emotional challenges than young men.

And last but not least, the obligatory sex statistic. When asked whether they’d ever had anal intercourse, 20 percent of the youngest group (18-23-year-olds) said yes, while 37 and 39 percent of the older cohorts (24-32 and 33-39) said yes. Given the miniscule difference between the older two groups on what is an age-graded behavioral experience, it looks like the early-mid 20s are ground zero for this one. If you haven’t done it by age 30, it appears unlikely that you will.

  • Joe Canner

    Can the findings in #1 (or elsewhere) be used to shed light on the oft-quoted statistic that 40% of births are to unmarried women? As I understand #1, 19% of those aged 18-39 have parents who have never been married. Does this mean that out-of-wedlock births are increasing (because it reflects births 18-39 years ago), that many unmarried mothers eventually marry, or both?

    • Mark Regnerus

      Joe, the two things are probably loosely associated but I wouldn’t connect a straight line between them, no. To be sure, out-of-wedlock births are increasing, but that doesn’t only reflect the experience of current parents (as you seem to imply, the ones for whom this was the case are likely to repeat the process themselves–a thesis I have not tested). The current 41% statistic (on nonmarital births) reflects, I suspect, several things: increasing normative acceptability of (1) delayed marriage , (2) long-term cohabitation, and (3) more tenuous involvement of fathers in their children’s lives. In some ways, the 41% statistic reflects the way people want it to be. In other ways, however, I think it’s a concession to the heightened challenges of women to marry on the timetable they prefer (one that leaves generous room to natural fertility), which reflects men’s enhanced power in the mating market. Somehow I always wind up back there–to mating market dynamics.

  • Simeon

    Hi mark

    I see you frequently write about evangelicals attitudes towards premarital sex and was wondering what you thought was the Christian response to why we believe it’s wrong. Is it as simple as the bible saying fornication is a sin? Would love to hear your thoughts.


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