What Are the Biggest Challenges Young Adults Face Today?: Students Speak Up | Edutopia
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What Are the Biggest Challenges Young Adults Face Today?: Students Speak Up

Diane Demee-Benoit

Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia

New America Media, a nationwide network of over 700 ethnic-media organizations, received funding in 2006 from several foundations, as well as from the University of California's Office of the President, to conduct a survey of young people in California to better understand what young adults ages 16-22 feel are the primary issues impacting their lives.

The study -- one of the first ever to be entirely conducted by young adults' favorite communication tool, the cell phone -- had professional interviewers speak with 601 young Californians. Of those people, 31 percent attended public high school, 21 percent were enrolled a four-year college or university, 19 percent went to a two-year college, 19 percent weren't going to any school in California, 4 percent were students at private high schools, and 1 percent of students were in a General Equivalency Diploma program.

The results of the study paint an interesting picture of the upcoming generation. Among the major findings:

  • One in eight of the nation's young people live in California. Three-fifths of those in the age group are people of color, and almost half are immigrants or the children of immigrants. As the report cites, "This poll paints a portrait of a generation coming of age in a society of unprecedented racial and ethnic diversity -- the first global society this country has seen."
  • Twenty-four percent of the respondents consider the breakdown of the family to be the most pressing issue facing their generation today, followed by violence in neighborhoods and communities, and then poverty and global warming. However, several significant differences among racial and ethnic groups existed.

    White young adults named family breakdown as number one, followed by poverty and global warming. African American and Latino youth, however, believed violence in their communities was the most pressing issue facing their generation, followed by family breakdown and poverty. Asian American young adults, meanwhile, named family breakdown as the number-one issue, but they felt neighborhood violence was almost equally important, while poverty and global warming tied for third.

  • Personal finances and school ranked as high stressors. One-third of respondents said school causes the most stress, followed by money, personal relationships, and peer pressure. Asian Americans were significantly more likely than other groups to mention school as their biggest source of personal stress, while African Americans were more likely to mention money.
  • Young Californians embraced the state's increasing diversity. Most said that the majority of their friends were of a different race. They were just as likely to identify themselves by personal tastes in fashion and music, for example, as by traditional identity markers such as race and ethnicity.
  • Sixty-four percent of young Californians though they would be married or have a life partner at some point, and 63 percent believed they would have children.
  • Young Californians understood that postsecondary education is important. Over two-thirds expected to earn at least a four-year college degree, and 96 percent of respondents believed that if they work hard, they could achieve their goals.

What do you feel are the most pressing issues facing young adults today? What do you think about the results of this study? Please feel free to share your thoughts!

Diane Demee-Benoit

Former Director of Outreach at Edutopia

Comments (25)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

alex's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I was an engineering student at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I found personal relationships, the lack of love and support, fitting in as some of my toughest problems while I was in school. I consistently had these unresolved issues with my girlfriend and that was taking up a big chunk of my daily thoughts. The more I tried to ignore and concentrate on my school work, the worst it got. I didn't know what to do. It definitely crippled my study habits and I'm sure it has drastically effected my overall academic performance. Though I stayed away and never talked to her again in the last two years of my college life, the damage was already done to me and I literally had to struggle through college in order to graduate with a decent grade.

Therefore, to summarize, the personal relations and the lack of support at UIUC has made my classes 10 times harder for me. Thank god I got out alive!


Cheri Casey's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a returning college student due to a disability and also a parent of two beautiful teenagers. In researching some of the challenges college students face today, I have come across this interesting survey. It is really sad to read these statistics and to realize the impact on our future children due to the breakdown in marriages today. Many women shoulder all of the responsibilties and the children in the end suffer the most trauma. I think it is due time that the men out there stand up and be responsible. Children should be taught in high school more about healthy relationships, parenting, responsible living. Indeed , we can not keep going on this path. It is time to wake up a society living in denial, abuse and irresponsibilty to what it is doing to our society and children. Some traditions and morals need to have a fashionable comeback to reverse what is an almost anything goes, at whatever cost destructive way of life. Men should be more responsible and accountable. Those statistics do not mention how many men are considered criminal in their neglect of their children with the results being many young people living in poverty and facing these struggles mentioned. Unfortunately, very few children recieve the support they are entitled to with little consequence to men. However, truly we all are seeing the consequence that can only become worse without planned measures for change.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a 22 year old Hispanic male from Miami, Fl. we face a lot of similar issues here in Miami. I feel that while in the earlier years of a young adult the biggest issue they face is trying to fit in. popularity is one of the most important things to a high school student, young adults stress about not having the newest clothing, the latest electronics, the trendiest look, and most important not being able to attract members of the opposite sex or in some cases the same sex.
After high school i believe the next issue young adults encounter is financial problems. finding and maintaining a good job becomes an issue, also as one gets older more responsibility's arrive such as car payments, insurance, cell phone bills, internet bills, gas, food, and rent. These payments become extremely overwhelming for a young adult.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I read this whole page and feel sad about all those young people feeling so alone in their early years of striking out into the world. It also makes me feel angry at parents for not being there 150% for their kids. If you can't afford to pay for your kid's school, fine. But at the very least BE THERE for them emotionally and mentally. It is truly survival of the fittest in the USA and I hope morality improves because our young should not have to struggle with low morale in their formative years. God bless every single one of them.

Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Family breakdown is a problem even in small towns in Nebraska. It is amazing to me that people are so wrapped up in their problems that they don't think about their children. Even divorced parents can find a way to support their children together if they care enough. What comes first in a family? The children--they are the defenseless ones. The adults can manage, but kids feel lost. Even in good marriages, one partner may take the responsibility more seriously. At least the kids know for sure who will always be there.

I am a librarian and I see a lot of kids who know no boundaries, no support, few real friends, and they float from school to library to the streets, looking for what they don't even know. Parents who are together but work all the time or "play" all the time are not any good either.

I pray for the children.

Krista Lee's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

My name is Krista of Brandon, Florida, I am 18 years of age, and a recent graduate. Walking across the stage to get your diploma was the best feeling of twelve years that I've felt. Walking out into the real world and learning about problems with future social security, health care, and all the fine lines, becomes today's stress of tommorow. I come from a very diverse background, but have always been the middle-class working family. I, as a young adult of 18, am scared. I watch the political ads, the campaign trails, the bashing, the "who is right" speech, and it doesnt help me sleep at night. I do work, go to school, and hopefully going to be on my own soon. Again, my biggest problem is do I want an, "American Hero" or an "American Celebrity" as "The Man"? The things they want to talk about and the things they want to do are two questions that come into play. Who is who and who is really going to do what. I have faith in this whole situation and I'm trying my hardest to get "Young America's Voice" out. School, yes that is an issue socially status wise, but what about my health, my money, my voice. I do encourage my friends to speak out. Most of them say, "Government doesn't care, they just want money." Well welcome to the vicious cycle of life... Money is greed and greed turns into abused power. I think that the unspoken voice's of young adults is the abused power because "they" aren't having to deal with it, we are. Everyone is. Period. I want this is be read, and thought about. I do eventually plan on speaking out more about this so called, "taken-care-of issue" because it's not taken care of. I shouldn't have to be in fear of my future, and I am.

That's Not The American Dream

Gary Dumas's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

submitted by Gary Dumas www.garydumas.com

I have learned so much from reading the posted comments. I'm so glad that I have a passion to be apart of the solution I made a conscious decision by starting with my own life and ways of thinking, and then by working diligently to encourage and inspire others when it's in my ability to do. It came a time where I had to grow up and realize what was really going on.

Edith Nakibuuka's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I have read most of these comments and been triggered to write too.
AM still a university student at Makerere university Kampala, the biggest challenges i have noticed young adults face are, for instance; lack of self esteem, desire to please every one, lack of guidance at the college because people assume we are mature enough to make wise decisions. this has been the biggest up hazard in young people's lives at the university. i appeal to all the stake holders to come up and continue to play their role. other wise with out them the young generation is doing bad.

yours sincerely, Edith

Kendricks Oghwe's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I am a student of Anambra State University (NIGERIA), department of Mechanical Engneering. The challenges youth face is very numerous but i will just deliberate on d aspect of fitting in.Youths of now always want to do things bcos their friends re doin it irrespective of the consequences attached to it, a student that his parents are not influential in the society will want to go into every crime as possible just to see that he has the latest car and clothes just to impress his friends and the other challenge is that of having a girl friend when all ur pals have more...

fine faaoa's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

my name is fine faaoa and i am 19 living in kingdom of tonga and the main challenges that the youth of these days are facing is known to be the peerpressure i go to school in a ladies schools and i have faced this challenge but cladly my parends voice was more louder to me than my friends but i asure you that it wasnt a easy task it came to a time that i have to smoke and i liked it but my parents cant seem to shut up and that helped to turn me from the worng way to the right way and keep focus on my dtudied fitting in is one of the causes by the peerpresure and it really shown on my fellow mates but the solution is just think of home where you came from and your only future


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