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Why Young Adults Are Failing at Being Adults

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Growing up is never easy and comes with many daunting challenges. But studies suggest millennials are having a harder time becoming self-sufficient than any other generation in recent history -- with college being part of the solution and part of the problem.

According to a study by researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the numbers of young people around the world failing to transition from childhood to independent adulthood has been growing. More are still living at home with their parents and unable to get long-term, full-time employment.

"Young adults are doing increasingly worse economically in spite of living in wealthy regions of the world," said IIASA population expert Vegard Skirbekk and co-author of the study, in a press release .

Skirbekk and the two other researchers who worked on the study, Warren Sanderson and Marcin Stonawski, dub this "Young Adult Failure to Thrive Syndrome" in the study, which appeared last month in the Finnish Yearbook of Population Research .

They blame global economic and demographic shifts that began in the 1980s, with failure to thrive likely tied to a more globalized labor force and more women entering the workforce. The current generation of young adults is also more educated than their predecessors, putting a glut of workers qualified for more skilled positions into an increasingly tighter labor market.

At the same time, technological advances have opened up opportunities for new positions but rendered many others obsolete, creating a trend toward fewer industrial jobs and more service-sector jobs that are often lower paying and part time.

"Even as economic conditions have improved for some in the population, young people are worse off today than they were 20 years ago," says study co-author Warren Sanderson, an IIASA scholar and professor of economics and history at SUNY Stony Brook.

Failure to thrive syndrome "is most prevalent among those with the least education," says the study, while noting that a college education also doesn't ensure immunity from the syndrome.

This would be the case for 27-year-old Brian. Though he has a bachelor's degree in aviation management, he lives at home with his parents while trying to pay off $230,000 he accrued in student loans.

"The prospect of buying a house, getting another car or starting a family with my incredible girlfriend is pretty much off the table," says Brian, who just started a job that pays about $50,000 a year.

Even with his new position, he doesn't believe he will be able to make enough to live more independently anytime soon.

Still, a study published last month by the Pew Research Center indicated that not going to college causes a greater economic burden than pursuing a degree. It found that college graduates age 25 to 32 who are working full time earn an average of $17,500 more annually than those with only a high school diploma. Millennials with college degrees were also 7% more likely to be employed full-time.