NC in Focus: Young Adults, Then and Now

“Young adults today, often called the millennial generation, are more likely to be foreign born and speak a language other than English at home, compared with young adults in 1980.” – U.S. Census Bureau press release

The U.S. Census Bureau released the most recent 5-year American Community Survey data last week, covering 2009-2013. In conjunction with this, they also released a new edition of Census Explorer, a collaborative effort with Social Explorer to produce interactive maps devoted to a variety of topics. “Young Adults: Then and Now,” uses the most recent ACS data in conjunction with 1980, 1990, and 2000 census data. Users can zoom in from the national level to the state, metropolitan, and county levels to explore selected characteristics of the young adult population (individuals ages 18 to 34) and trends in these characteristics over time. Additionally, there is a comparison feature that allows users to make comparisons with the nation or state.

What are some of the North Carolina trends or comparisons?

The share of young adults who are veterans has declined since 1980. In 1980, 9.2% of NC young adults were veterans, just under the national rate of 9.4%. This proportion has steadily declined over the past three decades and is at its lowest level since 1980. According to the 2009-2013 ACS data, 2.9% of NC’s young adults are veterans, a higher share than the national average (2.4%).

North Carolina young adult workers are more likely to drive to work. 91% of NC workers 18 to 34 drove in a car, truck, van, or carpool to work in the 2009-2013 American Community Survey data compared to 84.5% nationally. These patterns have not changed substantially since 1980.

The share foreign-born share of the young adult population has increased in both North Carolina and the nation since 1980. With 12% of the North Carolina young adult population born in another country according the the most recent ACS estimates, the state rate is lower than the national level (15.4%). But this rate is much higher in certain counties, such as the urban counties of Wake (17.8%), Mecklenburg (19.7%), and Durham (21.3%) and the rural counties of Sampson (18.7%) and Duplin (26.4%).

About Rebecca Tippett

Rebecca Tippett is Director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill's Carolina Population Center.
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