TODAY’S QUESTION: Why are Americans taking longer to grow up?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 | 11:16 a.m. CDT; updated 12:32 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Parents are spending more money on their adult children, housing them longer and waiting longer for grandchildren.

That is the conclusion of a group of scholars at the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood. A recent article in The New York Times explores the possibility that Americans are increasingly taking their time to join in on traditionally adult activities such as living on their own, financial independence, marriage and parenthood.

The article cites numerous sources and statistics indicating that the median age for reaching these chapters of life is shifting. For example, the median age for marriage has increased from 23 in 1980 to 26 for women and 27 for men. Women are waiting longer to have children — a trend seen across racial, ethnic and socioeconomic demographics. At the same time, 54 percent of mothers now have a college education compared to 41 percent in 1990.

Since children remain dependent on their parents for longer, the economic strain is greater on large chunks of the population. The researchers found that, for adults between 18 and 34, parents are contributing as much as 10 percent of their income. In 2007, approximately 25 percent of white males age 25 still lived with their parents, according to the researchers.

The article cites the women's movement and a shift from a manufacturing to a service-based economy as reasons for the slower move toward independence.

Why are Americans taking longer to grow up?

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Ellis Smith June 16, 2010 | 10:31 p.m.

Here is something called Parkinson's law, not to be confused with Parkinson's disease. (Two different persons named "Parkinson.")

Parkinson's law states that there is a direct relationship between how much time is allowed for completing a task and how long it takes to actually complete that task. In this case, the present generation is arbitrarily being given longer to "grow up" (by parents, etc.) and so, according to the law cited here, they are taking longer to complete that task.

Previous generations weren't afforded that luxury. Whether the present situation is good or bad depends on how one views it.

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