In an April 2017 report, the U.S. Census Bureau examines changes in young adulthood over the last 40 years. The study looks at how the economic and demographic characteristics of young adults (ages 18 to 34) have changed from 1975 to 2016.
The report defines adulthood as a period in life associated with common experiences and the achievement of particular milestones, such as living independently of parents, working full-time, getting married, and having children.
This puts some recent changes in perspective: In 1975, 45% of young adults (ages 25 to 34) had completed four specific milestones — lived independently of their parents, had ever married, lived with a child, and were in the labor force — compared with only 24% of 25- to 34-year-olds in 2016.
The report also reveals that while educational and economic accomplishments are considered important milestones of adulthood by most of today's Americans, marriage and parenthood rank much lower.