This is a difficult time to be a young adult in America. As one passage from the new book “Not Quite Adults,” by Richard Settersten and Barbara Ray, aptly sums it up: “After two decades on Easy Street,” they write, “young adults awoke in early 2009 to a new nickname, Generation R, for 'recession.' All too suddenly, the party was over and only the hangover lay ahead.” As of April 2010, the unemployment rate for 20- to 24-year-olds stood at 17.2 percent, nearly double the national average. One half of 18- to 24-year-olds have not left home, a 37 percent increase since 1970. And it’s not just the fresh-out-of-college set: 30 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds live with their parents.
With its telling subtitle: “Why 20-Somethings Are Choosing A Slower Path To Adulthood, And Why It’s Good for Everyone,” Settersten and Ray's book gathers eight years of MacArthur Foundation research and hundreds of personal interviews to take the pulse of America’s young adults. Yes, more of them are living at home, delaying other big-person milestones like marriage and child-rearing. But while they sleep in their childhood bedrooms, they are also paying off debt, experimenting with careers and preparing for the time when they are ready to leave the nest and enter a hyper-competitive economy that doesn’t take kindly to failings and missteps.