Young adults aren’t like their elders. That’s a perennial observation that, thanks to a new analysis by the Minnesota State Demographic Center, can be made about this state’s millennial generation with statistics to back it up.
As anyone who once was a young adult can attest, people between the ages of 18 and 34 are works in progress. Not all of their characteristics are fixed for life. But judging from the center’s analysis, derived from the 2008-12 American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, today’s Minnesota young adults differ in the aggregate from previous generations in several respects:
• They are more racially diverse. More than one in five Minnesotans ages 18-34 is a person of color — the largest such cohort ever measured in this state. What’s more, they are diverse in their diversity, with a four-way split among African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics and “other,” including mixed races. In contrast, 94 percent of Minnesotans ages 55 and older are white.
• They’re not all from here. Only about two-thirds of millennials were born in Minnesota. Twelve percent of them were born outside the United States. By comparison, in 1960, only 4.2 percent of the entire state population was foreign-born.
• They’re the best-educated Minnesotans yet. Thirty-eight percent of 25- to 34-year-olds possess a bachelor’s degree, up from 26 percent in 1990.
• They move a lot. That may be expected of the 18- to 24-year-old subset, of whom 57 percent were found to be attending school and 37 percent said they had moved within the past year. But high mobility continues past age 25, the analysis found, with 25 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds saying they had recently moved.
• They don’t all live in their parents’ basements. But more than two out of five 18- to 24-year-olds consider their parents’ home their own, as do 11 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds — more than did so in 1990 or 2000. That “may reflect changing cultural norms about multigenerational households,” the study’s authors speculate — or it may be a consequence of the Great Recession.
• They don’t all live in Uptown, either. Hennepin County indeed has the highest share of 25- to 34-year-olds as a percentage of its total population, at 16.4 percent. But also in the top 10 with Hennepin (and Ramsey, at 15.3 percent) are Benton, Olmsted, Blue Earth, Wright, Waseca, Sherburne, Nicollet and Clay, all in Greater Minnesota. A salient pattern: Several of those counties include college towns.
• They’re not the marrying kind — yet. Millennials are much less likely to be married than were previous generations of young adults. In 1950, 80 percent of 25- to 34-year-old Minnesotans were married. Today, it’s 49 percent. It’s likely no coincidence that Minnesota’s birthrate has fallen since the Great Recession. At 12.8 births per 1,000 Minnesotans in 2013, the birthrate is half as high as it was in 1950.
All of these characteristics carry implications for the rest of society, especially given the millennial generation’s size. In 2012, the 18- to 34-year-old set surpassed the baby boomer generation as Minnesota’s largest age cohort, with 28 percent of the state’s estimated 5.5 million total population.
Much is made of forecasts for growth in Minnesota’s elderly population as the boomers age. It behooves decisionmakers in both the public and private spheres to also factor these millennial differences into their planning. Finding ways to more fully engage a diverse, footloose, talented generation in the 157-year-old project of state-building is in every Minnesotan’s interest.