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(June 2006) Growing up is not what it used to be. Worldwide, youth today (defined as people between ages 10 and 24) spend longer preparing for adulthood than did their parents — beginning work, getting married, and having children at a later age on average than their counterparts of 20 years ago. Contemporary youth are also less likely to live in poverty, unless they are growing up in sub-Saharan Africa or parts of Eastern Europe or Central Asia.

Despite the longer preparation time, the transition to adulthood is still fraught with risks and challenges. Youth confront many health risks along the path to adulthood, including HIV/AIDS, injuries, and complications of pregnancy for young women who are becoming sexually active younger.

A new policy brief from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), Youth in a Global World, describes what it’s like to grow up in today’s world, with a special focus on four major experiences in the lives of young people: schooling, health, marriage, and childbearing. Written by Rachel Nugent, director of PRB’s BRIDGE (Bringing Information to Decisionmakers for Global Effectiveness) project, this brief highlights changes, cites trends, and suggests ways policies and programs could further improve the lives of today’s youth.