"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Changing U.S. Demographics of Young Adulthood

Those of us with even a passing interest in the next cohort of potential Freemasons knocking on our doors should take a look at the results of the most recent U.S. Census, and especially one particular summary report issued this month about it by the Census Bureau:

The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975–2016

The report specifically examines changes in social, economic and demographic trends among young American adults between 18 and 34 (commonly branded as 'Millennials') over the last 40 years. It tracked four "common milestones of adulthood:" getting married, having children, getting a job, and living on one's own. The percentage of Americans achieving all four of those "adult milestones" by age 34 went from 45% in 1975 down to just 24% in 2016.

Here are a few takeaways:

  1. Most of today’s Americans believe that educational and economic accomplishments are extremely important milestones of adulthood. In contrast, marriage and parenthood rank low: over half of Americans believe that marrying and having children are not very important in order to become an adult. 
  2. Young people are delaying marriage, but most still eventually tie the knot. In the 1970s, 8 in 10 people married by the time they turned 30. Today, not until the age of 45 have 8 in 10 people married. 
  3. More young people today live in their parents’ home than in any other arrangement: 1 in 3 young people, or about 24 million 18- to 34-year-olds, lived in their parents’ home in 2015. 
  4. In 2005, the majority of young adults lived independently in their own household, which was the predominant living arrange- ment in 35 states. A decade later, by 2015, the number of states where the majority of young people lived indepen- dently fell to just six. 
  5. More young men are falling to the bottom of the income ladder. In 1975, only 25 percent of men, aged 25 to 34, had incomes of less than $30,000 per year. By 2016, that share rose to 41 per- cent of young men. (Incomes for both years are in 2015 dollars.) 
  6. Between 1975 and 2016, the share of young women who were homemakers fell from 43 percent to 14 percent of all women aged 25 to 34. 
  7. Of young people living in their parents’ home, 1 in 4 are idle, that is they neither go to school nor work. This figure represents about 2.2 million 25- to 34-year-olds. 
Of course, generalizations are always imprecise measurements, especially with something as nebulous as a generation's perceived "attitude." But when we as a fraternity have our tin can of institutional destiny tied to the tail of the next generation or two immediately following us, we need to at least keep an eye on these kinds of major shifts that affect our own present and future membership. Despite all of our solemn cant about making no innovations, Freemasonry has always adapted to suit and serve the society in which it resides. It is a constant evolutionary process, and those who fail to evolve will find themselves reaping the whirlwind.

The current U.S. population today is 324,911,917. The latest available figures on regular, recognized U.S. Masonic membership from the Masonic Service Association are for 2015: 1,161,253. That is just 0.36% of Americans who are currently Freemasons – which makes us either very elite or very precarious, depending on your point of view. 

(Just by way of comparison, the worldwide estimate of Freemasons currently being floated by the press in its coverage of the United Grand Lodge of England's 300th anniversary is 6 million. Since everybody's best guess in 2005 was around 3 million, one wonders who's doing the counting, and just how they calculated that.)


  1. Important post.

    In America,the U.S. Military has almost always been a solid source of Masonic recruits. During the eighties, I met many strong U.S. Military Master Masons, while serving in the U.S. Army, who proudly wore their Masonic rings everyday. These men inspired me and helped me to become a Master Mason.

    From The Washington Times: "The U.S. Military's historically high suicide rate is more a generational trait than a wartime offshoot, as Millennial recruits join up carrying emotional baggage, a new research paper says.

    The Pentagon says that the group most at risk of committing suicide is white males under 24 years old-which just happens to fit the profile of virtually all enlisted recruits.

    In other words, the Military's suicide story is mostly about Millennials, the birth cohort that sprung in the early 1980's, began reaching early adulthood with the change in century and started joining the military.

    This cadre, the paper says, is more likely to come from single-parent homes compared to previous generations, has more adverse childhood experiences and suffers "diminished social integration". In fact, the very reason some Millennials join is because they seek the direction and bonding that the Military offer.

    These conclusions come in a new paper by two Psychologists for the University of Utah's National Center for Veterans Studies".

  2. If one can speak about the demographics of attitude, the group from which future Masons might come is not only different in marriage and residence patterns but in negative views of racism, homophobia, gender discrimination, orthodox religion. In sum, the conspicuous problems of some lodges and grand lodges are adding to the challenges we face in the declining membership. This has been said again and again without the leadership taking seriously our loss of prestige, failure in many cases to attract outstanding candidates, and diminishing financial resources. We appear increasingly as irrelevant and duplicitous. until our leadership faces this, the decline will accelerate.

  3. Going to ramble for just a second:

    This reminds me of an interesting exchange at my lodge last year. It kind of cemented the problem (as I see it) with the Fraternity right now.

    My lodge is a small rural lodge, about 20 miles from town. But we recently have been blessed with a number of young and energetic brothers.

    I was discussing with the WM how we should create a Slack account (it is a team communications app) for our lodge. Another Brother who is my age (i.e. ‘millennial’) had introduced it at his lodge with a great deal of success. One place that could be easily accessed on the smart phone or a computer to get all of our scheduling and communications.

    The WM really liked it. But then frowned and said, “Most of the brothers will love this. And I really like it. But I don’t think it will work. A few of the older guys hate this kind of stuff and will never use it.”

    I nodded, and the other brother who used the app at his lodge shrugged and said, “Will all respect Worshipful, if they don’t like it, they don’t have to use it. We can still call them. But we should really be playing the long game for everyone else.” *

    This always stuck with me. GL leadership, by its very nature, is something of an old man’s game. You need to be retired, and relatively wealthy to be in GL line (at least in TX from what I’ve seen). And I’ve always kind of assumed that no matter what the numbers say (to an extent) when you are sitting at the pinnacle of the mountain, problems at the base of the mountain are a lot harder to see.

    What millennials ‘think’ needs to happen to fix the Fraternity and what the ruling generation ‘thinks’, often times seem at odds. But at the end of the day, only one set of ideas is going to be heard/considered/tried. And it isn’t the millennials.

    We (millennials) don’t have all the answers. And, clearly, neither do the brethren from the current ruling generation. I’d like to think the answers are balanced somewhere in between. A GL is a bureaucracy, and those are big, unwieldy ships to steer. And when you haven’t changed course in decades, it becomes that much harder to turn.

    It is going to take more than demanding better ritual proficiency, and a GL mandated open house over the Memorial Day weekend to solve things.

    Ok, rant over. Thanks for listening, Brethren.

    *And, to our WM credit, he got everyone to start using Slack, and it’s been a great tool. Even the ‘old timers’ eventually got on board when everyone else was running with it.

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    1. You are hopelessly out of touch with the economic reality Millennials are facing if you think they're living at home because they're lazy and someone's coddling them.


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