Biblical Archaeology Review 36:5, September/October 2010

Biblical Views: The Economics of Family: Changing Biblical Norms

By Julia M. O’Brien

A recent report by the MacArthur Foundation confirmed what most parents of 20-somethings already know: Young adults in the U.S. are taking longer than previous generations to become financially independent. Those in the 18–34 demographic receive an average of 10 percent of their income from parents, and one-fourth of 25-year-old white males live at home. The median age for a first marriage is now 27 for men and 26 for women, up from 23 in 1980.1

While talk radio pundits and disapproving grandparents blame these delays in reaching the benchmarks of adulthood on permissive parenting and lazy kids, the MacArthur report points instead to the significant economic and social changes in the U.S. since 1970, particularly the “change from a manufacturing to a service-based economy that sent many more people to college, and the women’s movement, which opened up educational and professional opportunities.”2 An economy that reserves good jobs for those with college degrees encourages young adults to focus on themselves before they focus on a family, a perspective that has now extended beyond college graduation into the early 30s.

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