America’s Young Adults: Special Issue, 2014

Young adults in the United States today face the challenges of achieving financial and social independence—while forming their own households—at a time of economic uncertainty. Policymakers and the public need a better understanding of the achievements and needs of these young adults in order to support them effectively in the transition to adulthood.

The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, a working group of 22 federal agencies, published America's Young Adults: Special Issue, 2014, which includes data from nationally representative, federally sponsored surveys, grouped into five domains: education; economic circumstances; family formation; civic, social, and personal behavior; and health and safety.

Presenting timely data and topics, the report provides statistics on young Americans’ transitions from adolescence to adulthood in a nontechnical, easy-to-understand format.

Key Findings

  • The overall college enrollment rate for 18- to 24-year-olds increased from 26 percent in 1980 to 41 percent in 2012. Since the early 1990s, females have enrolled in college at greater percentages than males.
  • The mean cumulative debt per fourth-year college student for the 2011–12 school year was $25,400, up from $14,700 for the 1989–90 school year, after adjusting for inflation.
  • The labor force participation rate for young adults was 65 percent in 2012, compared with 75 percent in 1986 and 74 percent in 2000.
  • Fifty-eight percent of young men and 51 percent of young women lived with their parents in 2013.
  • In 2012, about 20 percent of young men and 15 percent of young women smoked cigarettes, a decline for both groups since the late 1990s.

AIR worked on many aspects of the production of the publication, which was released on July 11, 2014.

The full report is available online at For further information please contact