Why Are HBCUs Failing Behind in Tech?

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are institutions of higher learning that were established to provide African Americans with the quality education they were denied due to racial segregation. However, despite their rich history and contributions to academia, HBCUs face a major challenge in the modern world: keeping pace with technological advancements.

In this article, we will address the possible reasons why HBCUs are falling behind in technology and offer potential solutions to bridge the gap.

Factors Contributing to HBCU’s Struggle in Technology:

1. Funding Disparity: One of the most significant factors limiting HBCU’s progress in technology is the lack of adequate funding. According to a recent study, predominantly white institutions (PWIs) receive around three times more federal research funding than HBCUs. A smaller budget translates to fewer resources for investments in technology, including hardware, software, training faculty members, and hiring tech-focused staff.

2. Limited Infrastructure: Along with inadequate funding, many HBCUs tend to have older infrastructure that can hinder the implementation of cutting-edge technology. Upgrading or integrating new tech can be costly and disruptive, making it difficult for these schools to remain competitive with PWIs.

3. Lack of Industry Partnerships: Collaborations between academic institutions and the tech industry play a crucial role in fostering innovation. While PWIs often engage with leading tech firms for research projects or internships, HBCUs may have fewer opportunities due to limited connections with those companies.

4. Underrepresentation in STEM Fields: Disparities in enrollment and graduation rates contribute to the underrepresentation of African American students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Lower STEM participation rates may impact an HBCU’s ability to attract talented students interested in pursuing technology-related careers.

Potential Solutions:

1. Increase Federal Funding: Lobbying for increased federal funding could help HBCUs build better technological infrastructure, support faculty development, and attract more students. Closing the funding gap would put HBCUs in a better position to compete on a level playing field.

2. Strengthen Industry Partnerships: Fostering stronger relationships with key technology companies could provide resources, internships, and job opportunities for HBCU students. Exposure to real-world tech applications would help students gain practical experience while enhancing research and academic programs.

3. Encourage STEM Education: HBCUs can take steps like providing scholarships and hosting STEM-related events to attract talented students interested in tech fields. By fostering an inclusive environment with ample opportunities for growth, HBCUs can increase representation in STEM fields.

4. Investment in Technology Infrastructure: Obtaining grants and private donations can help HBCUs invest in updating their technology infrastructure, including modernizing classrooms and installing industry-standard software.


While HBCUs face numerous challenges in adapting to the rapidly evolving technology landscape, these historical institutions have proven time and again that they can adapt and overcome obstacles when provided the necessary resources. By addressing funding disparities, fostering industry partnerships, encouraging STEM education, and investing in updated infrastructure, HBCUs can continue to produce skilled graduates who contribute significantly to the global workforce in today’s digital age.

Is It Ok For HBCUs to Have Low Graduation Rates?

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played a vital role in providing education to the Black community for more than a century. These institutions are known for producing some of the most influential figures in American history. However, HBCUs are currently experiencing a problem that raises a critical question: Is it acceptable for these schools to have low graduation rates?

To answer this question, we must first understand the factors contributing to low graduation rates at HBCUs. Some of these factors include inadequate funding, limited resources, and reduced enrollment numbers. Additionally, many students attending HBCUs come from diverse backgrounds and face various personal challenges that may affect their academic achievement. While these issues undoubtedly pose significant obstacles to achieving higher graduation rates, it is crucial to determine whether this outcome is acceptable.

One argument supporting the idea that low graduation rates at HBCUs are justifiable emphasizes the unique characteristics and missions of these institutions. Historically, HBCUs have placed great importance on providing access and opportunities to underprivileged students who may not have had the chance to attend college otherwise. In doing so, HBCUs willingly acknowledge that it may be difficult for them to achieve high graduation rates while still fulfilling their mission of providing a quality education for students in need.

Furthermore, evaluating an institution’s success based solely on its graduation rate can be shortsighted. For instance, HBCUs are recognized for nurturing essential life and career skills in students, attributes that may not necessarily translate into higher graduation rates but can nonetheless positively impact their lives. Moreover, an HBCU’s contribution goes far beyond its graduation rate by helping shape leaders in various fields such as activism, civil rights, literature, and STEM.

While these counterarguments shed light on some of the reasons why low graduation rates at HBCUs may be understandable, it is imperative not to overlook the potential consequences. Low graduation rates are often associated with a lack of funding and resources, which may consequently impact an institution’s ability to provide the best possible education to its students. Moreover, students with college degrees generally enjoy better career prospects and higher lifetime earnings, making it crucial for HBCUs to make concerted efforts to improve their students’ chances of graduating.

In conclusion, the issue of low graduation rates at HBCUs is complex and multifaceted. These institutions have a unique mission of serving underprivileged students while striving for academic success, and evaluating them solely based on graduation rates may be unfair. However, stakeholders, including administrators, students, government agencies, and donors, must work collaboratively to address the underlying factors contributing to low graduation rates and ensure these institutions can continue serving their mission while providing quality education for future generations.

How many HBCUs are there?

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are a crucial part of the higher education system in the United States. These universities were initially established to provide educational opportunities for African American students who were previously barred from attending white institutions due to segregation and discrimination. But, how many HBU’s are there?

Currently, there are 101 HBCUs in the United States, including public and private institutions. Of these HBCUs, 51 are public universities, and the remaining 50 are private institutions. These universities are spread across 19 states, primarily in the southern and eastern regions of the country.

The first HBCU in the United States was Cheyney University, founded in 1837. Since then, these institutions have played a significant role in educating African American students and promoting social justice in the United States.

In addition to providing educational opportunities for African American students, HBCUs play a crucial role in supporting low-income and first-generation students. They also serve as a safe and inclusive environment for students who may not feel as welcome at predominantly white institutions.

HBCUs offer a wide range of degree programs, from undergraduate to graduate level, and include fields such as business, law, medicine, education, and engineering. These institutions also provide various resources and support services for their students, such as tutoring, mentoring, and internships.

Although HBCUs have faced challenges in recent years, such as declining enrollment and financial struggles, these institutions are still essential in promoting diversity and equality in higher education. They continue to play a crucial role in ensuring that African American students have access to quality education and the tools they need to succeed.

In conclusion, there are currently 101 HBCUs in the United States, providing educational opportunities for African American students and promoting social justice in the country. These institutions are essential in promoting diversity and equality in higher education and are crucial to ensuring that all students have access to quality education. 

Environmental Racism’s Affect on HBCUs

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have been serving the African American community for over a century. However, just like many other educational institutions, HBCUs are facing a variety of challenges that are hindering their progress. One of the most profound challenges is environmental racism.

Environmental racism is the practice of situating toxic waste sites, landfills, and other environmental hazards in low-income communities and communities of color. This practice is rooted in social, economic, and racial inequality, and it has devastating effects on the health and well-being of affected communities.

HBCUs, which are predominantly attended by people of color, often find themselves situated in areas that are disproportionately affected by environmental racism. These institutions are usually located in low-income areas where pollution levels are high, and access to clean air and water is limited. As a result, HBCUs are feeling the brunt of environmental racism in several ways.

One of the critical ways that environmental racism affects HBCUs is the impact on the health of their students and faculty. For example, many HBCUs are located near industrial plants that emit dangerous toxins into the air and water. These pollutants can damage organs, compromise immunity, and lead to chronic illnesses such as asthma and cancer. Such health impacts can lead to health risks and even death, especially for vulnerable populations, including the elderly, the children, pregnant women, and people with underlying health issues.

Moreover, the air pollution resulting from environmental racism not only affects the health of individuals but also has adverse effects on the environment. HBCUs are known for their significant contributions to environmental education and research. But, their efforts to advance environmental stewardship are frequently impeded by hazardous waste, contaminated air, and water, a situation that precludes them from providing a healthy and safe academic life.

Lastly, environmental racism has also had a significant impact on the operations and finances of HBCUs. As a result of environmental contamination, affected schools need to spend significant amounts of their resources on environmental remediation, cleanup, and mitigation measures. Such costs can put a strain on the financial resources that these schools need to meet their core obligations, including paying for educational programs and funding student scholarships.

In conclusion, environmental racism is an insidious and destructive force that is impacting HBCUs and their communities. The students, faculty, and leadership at these institutions are among the many casualties of environmental injustice. Therefore, addressing environmental racism needs to be a priority for both policymakers and individuals alike. It is only by creating awareness and taking concerted steps to fight environmental racism that we can begin to secure the future of HBCUs and the communities they serve.   

The Economic Impact of HBCUs

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are educational institutions that were established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide education to African American students who had limited educational opportunities. Today, HBCUs continue to play a significant role in the educational and economic development of African American communities and the country as a whole. In this article, we will examine the economic impact of HBCUs on their surrounding communities, the state, and the nation.

Creating Job Opportunities

HBCUs are major employers in their local communities, creating jobs for thousands of people. These jobs range from administrative positions to maintenance and security staff, teaching and research faculty, and support staff such as librarians, cafeteria workers, and custodians. According to a recent study by the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, HBCUs provide direct and indirect employment to over 137,000 individuals and generate over $14.8 billion in total economic impact.

Attracting Investment

HBCUs help to attract investment to their surrounding areas by providing a skilled and educated workforce that can meet the needs of businesses and industries. Graduate and undergraduate students who attend HBCUs often establish ties with local business and civic leaders as they participate in internships, service learning projects, and community service events. They serve as ambassadors for their institutions and contribute to the positive image of their communities. This can help to attract outside investment and business partnerships that can create jobs and stimulate economic growth.

Increasing Local Revenue

HBCUs also contribute significantly to the local economy by generating revenue from student tuition and fees, research projects, grants, and contracts. Students and faculty members also spend money in the local communities, supporting businesses such as restaurants, hotels, and shops. This increased economic activity leads to an increase in local tax revenue, which can be used to fund vital community services such as schools, hospitals, and public safety.

Providing Entrepreneurial Opportunities

HBCUs help to develop and support entrepreneurship by providing students and alumni with the tools and resources to start and sustain their own businesses. According to a report by the HBCU Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Initiative, HBCUs have produced over 50,000 entrepreneurs who have created thousands of jobs in their communities. These entrepreneurs have started businesses in various sectors, including technology, health care, finance, and education.


HBCUs are not only valuable educational institutions but also economic engines that contribute greatly to their local communities, states, and the nation as a whole. They provide job opportunities, attract investment, increase local revenue, and support entrepreneurship. As we continue to address income inequality, racial disparities, and economic development, HBCUs will undoubtedly play an integral role in ensuring that all individuals have access to quality education and economic opportunities.     

The Edvocate Podcast, Episode 6: 8 Ways That Digital Age Teachers Avoid Burning Out

Being a teacher is a tough job. So much so, many new teachers end up leaving the field within their first three years. To ensure that the next generation of students have qualified teachers, we must nip this phenomenon in the bud. In this episode, we will discuss 8 ways that digital age teachers avoid burning out.

Explainer: how campus policies limit free speech

David Hudson, Vanderbilt University

Colleges and universities are supposed to be places where freedom of expression flourishes. Sadly, that is not the case. At a recent debate on the Yale University campus, 66 percent of the attendees supported a proposition that “free speech is threatened.”

Places of higher learning seem more interested in “safe spaces” rather than in freedom of expression. Several incidents across campuses illustrate this. Recently, at Emory, students complained after they found chalk messages scrawled around campus voicing support for Donald J. Trump.

Last year at the University of Ottawa, a yoga class designed for handicapped people was suspended because the student federation thought it was a form of “cultural appropriation.” And at Smith College a student sit-in blocked media from entering unless reporters agreed to explicitly state support for the movement in their coverage.

Illustrating how contentious the debates have become, two of the most respected American comedians, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld, said that colleges are eager “not to offend anybody.” Some students at a private Ivy League school even signed a petition to repeal the First Amendment.

Ideally, colleges and universities would foster an exchange of competing and controversial ideas. The reality is much different. Some colleges and universities limit discourse by silencing speech that might offend others through so-called speech codes and free speech zones.

In studying free expression issues for more than 20 years, I strongly believe such polices have led to a chilling effect on speech. They also have led to a mentality where students do not wish or want to face an opposing viewpoint.

So, what are these policies?

Combating hateful speech

First, let’s look at speech codes on campuses. A speech code refers to a set of provisions or regulations that limit certain types of offensive or harassing speech.

Colleges and universities usually don’t call their regulations speech codes. Instead, they refer to them as anti-harassment policies.

It was in the 1980s and 1990s that more than 300 colleges passed these policies to combat hateful speech. Schools tried to address harassment of gays and lesbians, women and members of other ethnic groups. The policies were further enforced when white students wore blackface for sorority and fraternity parties. Many schools were trying to achieve more diversity in their student bodies.

The intent was good. Many of these policies sought to prohibit speech or conduct that created an intimidating or harassing environment on the basis of race, sex, religion, or other criteria.

However, the results were not good for the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
Policies at the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin were invalidated on First Amendment free speech grounds.

At the University of Wisconsin, speech codes were adopted following racial incidents. JanetandPhil, CC BY-NC-ND

At the University of Wisconsin, for example, university officials adopted the speech code after several racially insensitive displays at fraternities. For example, one fraternity held a “slave auction.” A student newspaper and several others challenged the policy on the ground that the policies infringed on academic freedom and stifled some legitimate speech. In UWM Post v. Board of Regents of University of Wisconsin (1991), a federal district court struck down the policy, writing:

The suppression of speech, even where the speech’s content appears to have little value and great costs, amounts to governmental thought control.

Similar problems occurred at Michigan, which had its share of disturbing racially charged incidents. At Michigan, a student disc jockey allowed racist jokes to be aired. University officials reacted with a speech code. The problem was that officials applied the policy to chill the speech of students engaged in classroom discussion or academic research.

A federal district court judge invalidated the policy in Doe v. University of Michigan (1989), writing:

While the Court is sympathetic to the University’s obligation to ensure equal educational opportunities for all of its students, such efforts must not be at the expense of free speech.

The problem was that these codes were not drafted with sufficient precision. Courts ruled that these polices were either too broad or too vague.

Overbreadth and vagueness problems

A policy is too broad if it prohibits speech that ought to be protected in addition to speech that can be prohibited. In legal terms, this is called “overbreadth”. For example, a policy that prohibits “offensive and annoying” speech sweeps too broadly and prohibits lawful expression.

A policy is too vague if a person has to guess at its meaning. Vagueness is rooted in the notion that it is fundamentally unfair to punish someone when they did not know that their speech violated the policy.

For example, the University of Michigan had a policy that prohibited “stigmatizing or victimizing” individuals or groups on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, sexual orientation, creed, national origin, ancestry, age, marital status, handicap or Vietnam-era veteran status.

In Doe v. University of Michigan, a federal district court judge ruled the policy too vague, writing:

Students of common understanding were necessarily forced to guess at whether a comment about a controversial issue would later be found to be sanctionable under the Policy.

Controversies still abound over speech codes at colleges and universities. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) regularly challenges policies that it believes run afoul of the First Amendment.

In its annual report, the group contends that nearly half of the speech codes at 440 colleges infringe on First Amendment free speech rights. FIRE contends in its report that “any speech code in force at a public university is extremely vulnerable to a constitutional challenge.”

Restricting where students can have free speech

In addition, many colleges and universities have free speech zones. Under these policies, people can speak at places of higher learning in only certain, specific locations or zones.

Free speech zones limit expression to a few places on campus. Penn State, CC BY-NC

While there are remnants of these policies from the 1960s, they grew in number in the late 1990s and early 2000s as a way for administrators to deal with controversial expression.

These policies may have a seductive appeal for administrators, as they claim to advance the cause of free speech. But, free speech zones often limit speech by relegating expression to just a few locations. For example, some colleges began by having only two or three free speech zones on campus.

The idea of zoning speech is not unique to colleges and universities. Government officials have sought to diminish the impact of different types of expression by zoning adult-oriented expression, antiabortion protestors and political demonstrators outside political conventions.

In a particularly egregious example, a student at Modesto Junior College in California named Robert Van Tuinen was prohibited from handing out copies of the United States Constitution on September 17, 2013 – the anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

Van Tuinen was informed that he could get permission to distribute the Constitution if he preregistered for time in the “free speech zone.” But later,
Van Tuinen was told by an administrator that he would have to wait, possibly until the next month.

In the words of First Amendment expert Charles Haynes, “the entire campus should be a free speech zone.” In other words, the default position of school administrators should be to allow speech, not limit it.

Zoning speech is troubling, particularly when it reduces the overall amount of speech on campus. And many free speech experts view the idea of a free speech zone as “moronic and oxymoronic.”

College or university campuses should be a place where free speech not only survives but thrives.

The Conversation

David Hudson, Adjunct Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Most students borrow for college, but are they financially literate?

Catherine Montalto, The Ohio State University and Anne McDaniel, The Ohio State University

August is here, and many families are preparing their children for the next academic challenge – a college education.

By and large, a college degree is viewed as an important credential for gainful employment and professional success. At the same time, college is costly, and college financing strategies are complex.

Students and their families use multiple sources to finance college expenses. Most students borrow for their education. Three out of five college students depend on student loans to fund their education.

But, do students know the ABCs of financial literacy?

College finance options

The college process begins with estimating the full cost of college attendance. This includes tuition, housing and living expenses, such as food, books, cellphone plans and transportation.

The next step is to identify all resources available to pay college expenses, including the expected family contribution, scholarships and grants, college savings and wages from employment – if students plan to work.

Once college costs and available resources are carefully estimated, any shortfall in resources informs the need for borrowing. Scholarships and grants are awarded without strings attached. However, student loans come with an obligation to repay the borrowed amount once the recipient is no longer enrolled full-time.

Guidelines for responsible student loan use recommend minimizing the loan amount in order to have less debt to be repaid.

Decisions made by college students and their families regarding loans have direct and significant consequences during adulthood.

The inability to manage student loan repayment along with other financial obligations (i.e., housing, food, utilities, transportation) has been shown to impact career choice, home ownership, marriage, additional education, financial health and overall quality of life.

So, how do students decide the amount to borrow? What rules of thumb or strategies are used? How is use of these strategies related to financial knowledge?

How students make borrowing decisions

We lead the Study on Collegiate Financial Wellness (SCFW), which surveys a random sample of undergraduate students in order to understand their financial behaviors, decisions and wellness. Data from our study provide insights to these questions.

The 2014 SCFW study, with the most recent information from nearly 19,000 college students studying at 51 public and private four-year and two-year institutions, found that the majority of college students with student loans use one or more strategies to minimize the amount borrowed.

How are students making borrowing decisions? Application image via www.shutterstock.com

For example, data from our study showed over half of student loan users tried to borrow as little as possible (52 percent).

Additionally, 38 percent considered the total amount of debt that they expected to graduate with. Thirty-three percent considered the amount that had borrowed in the past when deciding how much to borrow for the school year.

But about 28 percent, almost three out of 10 students, reported borrowing the maximum amount available in their package. And about 17 percent of student loan users borrowed the maximum available without also employing a strategy to minimize overall borrowing.

Low financial knowledge

The next question is, how well are students prepared to make these important decisions?

The SCFW included two financial knowledge questions to test whether respondents could understand the concepts of interest and inflation and had basic financial numeracy. These questions assess basic concepts of financial literacy – the knowledge and skill needed to manage financial resources effectively.

Nearly 80 percent of the college student respondents answered the interest rate question correctly. But only 59 percent answered the inflation question correctly. Just over half of the college students (53 percent) answered both questions correctly.

Students who answered the interest rate question incorrectly don’t understand that interest is earned not only on money deposited in a savings account, but also on previously earned interest – a feature known as compounding – while students who answered the inflation question incorrectly don’t understand that rising inflation reduces the buying power of money. Interest and inflation both influence how much our hard-earned money can buy.

These results are similar to previous research conducted in 2007-08 with 23-28 years old young adults.

In that study, the percentage of young adults answering correctly was 79 percent for the interest rate question, 54 percent for the inflation question, and 46 percent for both questions.

Knowledge influences borrowing

Some colleges provide either workshops or longer term courses on financial education, but the percentage of college students who receive financial education remains low.

When students know more, they save more. 401(K) 2012, CC BY-SA

Only one-quarter of the SCFW respondents completed a financial education course in college. Those that did were significantly more likely to answer both financial knowledge questions correctly (58 percent vs 51 percent). This difference is too large to attribute to chance alone, and suggests that financial education increases financial knowledge.

Using data from the SCFW on 7,180 students at four-year colleges, we wanted to see if financial knowledge and financial education were associated with strategies used to make borrowing decisions.

We controlled for many factors known to affect student loan borrowing, including student age, sex, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. We found that with higher financial knowledge, students were more likely to borrow what they believed they needed.

We found they budgeted and borrowed as little as possible, when they had financial knowledge.

Knowledge is power

While a college degree certainly pays off in the long run, the payoff can take longer if students have loans to repay.

This fall as students enter or return to college, it is important that they make thoughtful decisions about financing their education. Families making decisions about paying for college may also want to have discussions about how much students understand about finances or look for opportunities to take financial education workshops.

As the saying goes, knowledge is power, even when it comes to finances.

The Conversation

Catherine Montalto, Associate Professor of Consumer Sciences, The Ohio State University and Anne McDaniel, Senior Associate Director, The Ohio State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Just graduated? Does it make you feel like a grown up?

Michael Vuolo, The Ohio State University and Jeylan T Mortimer, University of Minnesota

We may think that a simple age cutoff – such as 18 – should make us feel like adults. And why not? After all, crossing an age threshold can bestow certain rights, such as voting, military enlistment, purchase of certain substances as well as adult images or videos.

From our perspective as researchers who study the transition from adolescence to adulthood, these legally defined age markers are hardly a good indicator of when we feel like adults. They can be subject to change and have no universal or even national standard.

For example, the minimum age for purchase for alcohol and recreational marijuana is 21. But the purchase of recreational marijuana is not legally permitted in all states. While tobacco purchase age is typically 18, two states and several cities recently moved the tobacco purchase age up to 21.

In addition, often times, individuals may not always “feel” like an adult simply because they passed an age marker.

So, when do we “feel” like adults?

Path to adulthood

Our idea of “adult” is bound closely to both our objective attainment of certain roles as well as our subjective evaluation of the timing of those roles.

Scholars working in this area have identified five important role transitions marking adulthood: finishing school, leaving home, acquiring stable work, marrying and parenting.

Although each of these adult roles has been considered alone or in pairs, little is known about how people traverse all the roles simultaneously and how achieving these markers of adulthood affects considering one’s self an “adult.”

People may feel “on time” or “off time,” depending on whether they achieve adult roles at the “right time.“ In other words, feeling like an adult may be tied to achieving multiple roles marking adult life rather than any single one and doing so in a timely manner compared to peers.

Pathway to adult life? Elizabeth Donoghue, CC BY-NC-ND

A typical pathway was laid out in the early and mid-20th century: exit school, get a job, move out of the parental home, get married, and have children.

While this might be considered the “normal” pathway even today, these transitions do not occur in such a neat and predictable order for many contemporary young people. Furthermore, the time to complete them has become longer.

It is commonplace today for young people to return to school after beginning work, move back in with parents (or never leave), have children prior to marriage, or work in less secure part-time jobs.

Different transition paths

Given the myriad possible paths through these roles, our research seeks to find frequent patterns or commonalities in the ways roles marking adulthood are traversed from ages 17 to 30 and what they mean for considering oneself an adult.

The study is based on a sample of 1,010 freshmen of St. Paul Public Schools, a school district of Minnesota. The survey started in 1988 and continued near annually through 2011. Over 20 years, this study has examined the consequences of work and other formative experiences in adolescence for the transition to adulthood.

Using a method that could identify distinct patterns in the timing and sequencing of adult roles, we found that the traditional school-to-work transition followed by “family formation” (that is, getting married and having children – around age 25) described above still exists.

However, only about 17 percent of young people follow that path today. Rather, most youth take four other pathways to adulthood.

Two of those paths involve a traditional school-to-work transition in one’s early twenties. But they are different in when they choose to form a family: one group delayed forming a family until their late twenties (20 percent); another did not do so by age 30 (27 percent).

The two remaining paths were distinguished by their low likelihood of attending college and early marriage and kids. Each member of this group had children by age 22.

But even these two paths defined by early parenting differed from one another: One group of early parents married and acquired full-time work (15 percent). The other, however, had much lower chances of achieving those roles (20 percent).

In other words, there were several objective ways to traverse the transition to adulthood.

Marriage, parenthood are critical

The question remains, do the members of these groups feel like an adult when they reach their mid-twenties? Have they acquired an adult identity? Do they think they are on or off time in achieving the five markers of adulthood?

Given the social acceptance of the traditional pathway of school-work-marriage- kids, individuals following that were more inclined to view themselves “entirely” as an adult. They considered themselves “on time” with regards to marriage and financial independence, relative to their peers.

Early parents who married and acquired full-time work also felt entirely like adults, although they considered themselves “very early” in traversing those markers.

Truly feeling like an adult is tied to forming one’s own family. Kim Davies, CC BY-NC-ND

By contrast, the early parents who did not get married or acquired stable work, felt “very early” on parenthood, but “very late” on other markers like marriage, cohabitation, and financial independence.

The other two groups who took the traditional school-to-work transition but delayed or did not get married and had kids felt “not entirely” like an adult. They believed that they were “very late” on parenthood.

While they achieved several traditional markers of adulthood, including finishing school, getting a job, and moving out on their own, they still did not feel like adults without marriage and parenthood.

It would appear that truly feeling like one has become an adult is tied to forming one’s own family via marriage and parenthood.

When do we “feel” adult?

Our research shows that there are many pathways that young people take in transitioning to adulthood. Adulthood is a subjective process that no one marker appears to be able to define, though marriage and parenthood are particularly important.

Moving away from the more traditional school-to-work transition allows for a period of exploration, as young people figure out what they want to do in life. Acquiring markers of adulthood is associated with leaving behind deviant behavior, such as heavy partying and even theft, usually committed at younger ages. Furthermore, in ongoing research, we find that early parents without partners have poor objective and subjective health outcomes.

But, to come back to the original question, when do we “feel” like adults, there is no simple answer.

Individuals become adults when they feel like adults, but this feeling is tied to the timely acquisition of certain markers, especially marriage and parenthood. Such subjective assessments are socially constructed.

In time, as the four “non-traditional” pathways become more commonplace, perhaps what is perceived as “on time” adulthood will shift so that individuals following those paths will view themselves as adults earlier in life.

The Conversation

Michael Vuolo, Assistant Professor of Sociology, The Ohio State University and Jeylan T Mortimer, Professor of Sociology, University of Minnesota

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.