How to Be a Grown-Up

Redefining the traditional markers of adulthood

Lauren Mackson (Flickr/laurenhasforce)
Lauren Mackson (Flickr/laurenhasforce)

Once upon a time, you turned 30 and you already had it all: a spouse, a house, a job, and a passel of kids. But even before the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on our lives, thirtysomethings’ expectations for their own lives were changing, both by choice and by necessity. Today, they’re getting married later if at all, having fewer kids, taking on more debt, and moving back in with their parents. Is economic upheaval and inequality the primary force behind these shifts? And why do traditional landmarks like getting married still exert such a pull on our psyches? Journalist Kayleen Schaefer conducted hundreds of interviews with researchers and millennials across the country to understand how this generation is redefining adulthood.

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Our theme music was composed by Nathan Prillaman.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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