Bell, Lisa Burtless, Gary Gornick, Janet Smeeding, Timothy M.
Year of Publication:
LIS Working Paper Series 456
We analyze trends in the age of economic independence in six industrialized countries, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The paper compares trends in the household living arrangements, employment rates, earnings levels, and net incomes as young adults rise in age from 18 to 34 years old. Our results show a picture of generally declining independent living and economic self-sufficiency ('failure to launch') among 18-34 year-old men and women in their early 20s from the mid-1980s to 1995-2000. The exceptions are women in their late 20s and early 30s , who have somewhat improved prospects for economic independence, although from a starting level that was well below that observed among men of the same age. North America (the United States and Canada ) and to some extent the U.K. offer partial exceptions to this general pattern. Between the mid-1980s and 2000 employment rates improved among young Americans in their late 20s and early 30s, and earnings levels either remained stable or increased modestly. The stability of U.S. employment levels helped to offset an apparent reduction in male hourly wage rates for this group , giving 26-34 year-old American men either larger gains or smaller losses in economic self-sufficiency compared to those experienced by their counterparts in continental Europe. In addition, young women in the U.S. who were 26 and older saw bigger improvements in wage self-sufficiency than most of their counterparts in continental Europe. In the closing section we speculate on the possible causes for such changes.