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Demography Roundup #6
The share of young adults living with their parents remains high + new data on youth mental health and the disappearing Southern accent.
#1: Pandemic aside, the share of young adults living with their parents remains near record highs.
Numerous reports show that the share of young people living with their parents reached a record high during the first year of the pandemic. The Pew Research Center's last figure, released in July 2020, found that a record 52% of 18- to 29-year-olds lived with their mom and dad, up from 47% in February 2020. (See "The Kids Are Back in Town.”) Meanwhile, Census Bureau data from 2020 found that a record-high 34% of 18- to 34-year-olds lived with their parents.
Now readings are coming in showing how this figure has changed post-pandemic. The latest Census Bureau update from 2022 found that the share of 18- to 34-year-olds who live with their parents slipped -3 percentage points to 31%, putting it just below the 2019 rate of 32%. And a recent Harris Poll survey conducted on behalf of Bloomberg found that the share of 18- to 29-year-olds who live with their parents is now 45%. If we compare these results to Pew's historical data, this is a -7 percentage-point decline from 2020 but is close to the pre-pandemic figure of 47%.
According to decennial census data, the current rate of 18- to 29-year-olds living with their parents still remains well above that recorded in any decade going all the way back to 1900, with the exception of 1940 (near the end of the Great Depression). In the Harris Poll, the top two reasons young adults give for living with their parents are to save money (41%) and to care for an older family member (30%).
#2: Today’s young adults report significantly higher rates of mental distress than previous generations did at the same age.
We have written several NewsWires on young people’s rising rates of emotional distress. (See “Late-Wave Millennials: Despair Springs Eternal” and “Soaring Youth Demand for Mental Health Care.”) Now a new Gallup report compares this mood to that of earlier cohorts when they were young adults. The results? Today’s youth report significantly higher rates of mental health struggles than older generations did at the same age.
In 2004, 55% of 18- to 26-year-olds (then late-wave Xers and early-wave Millennials) said their mental health was “excellent.” In 2013, 51% of this age group (Millennials) said the same thing. But in 2023, only 15% of 18- to 26-year-olds (mostly late-wave Millennials) reported “excellent” mental health. Clearly, something has changed. As we discussed in “Depression Rate Hits New High,” the dramatic increase in mental health issues among young people reflects both increasing episodes of severe emotional distress as well as changing cultural norms that have destigmatized, and in some cases even glorify, mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.
The Gallup survey also confirmed another trend we have noted: Despite young people’s poor mental health, they are highly optimistic about their future. (See “Teens Optimistic About Their Personal Lives, But Not the World.”) Among those aged 12-26, 66% believe they can get their dream job. 76% say they have a bright future. And 82% think they will achieve their goals. This optimism, along with their openly professed emotional fragility, is probably encouraged by their Xer/Millennial parents’ sheltered parenting style.
#3: In Georgia, the traditional “Southern drawl” is fading with each generation.
The South is sounding, well, less Southern. This is according to a new study from linguists at the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, and Brigham Young University, who analyzed voice recordings of 135 white native Georgians born between 1887 and 2003. They found that the accent remains strong among Georgia Boomers, who say prahz for “prize,” dray-uss for “dress,” and fuh-eece for “face.” But these and other accent markers became far less common among Generation Xers. This pattern has continued among Millennials, who are now more likely to say prah-eez, druss, and fayce like their non-Southern peers.
This linguistic shift is largely thought to reflect changing migration patterns. Post-World War II, Georgia—which had previously experienced little in-migration—saw a large influx of migrants from other U.S. states, resulting in “accent leveling.” The researchers also considered the possibility that increasing education played a role, since all of the Millennial speakers analyzed attended college while many of the older speakers did not. But the same accent shift was present even when the sample was limited to college-educated speakers only.
Georgia isn’t the only area where regional accents are fading. Similar studies have found that North Carolinians are also losing their Southern drawl, Texans are losing their twang, and New Englanders are pronouncing their Rs. Increasingly, regional accents are being replaced by a “pan-regional accent” that is heard nationwide. Drivers of accent flattening in all regions include not only the rising share of Americans attending post-secondary education, but also the decline of local (radio, TV, and online) media outlets and the weakening of regional identity in politics.
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