Jan 9, 2020

Young Adults Reveal Their Goals for the Next Decade

Barna spent much of last year researching and learning more about what we are calling the connected generation, the 18–35-year-olds—comprised of both Gen Z and Millennials—who are the future of our world. The Connected Generation report, conducted in partnership with World Vision, takes into account 15,369 interviews across 25 countries in 9 languages, allowing us both a broader and more focused lens with which to understand young adults.

With 2020 upon us and new year’s resolutions in full swing, we wanted to highlight the top accomplishments and goals of this generation.

The Connected Generation

How Christian Leaders Around the World Can Strengthen Faith & Well-being Among 18-35 Year-Olds

A Success-Driven Generation Turns Its Focus Toward Home
The connected generation gave us a clear view of their priorities in this study, offering responses for both past achievements and future goals. Of those who participated in the survey, nearly half had finished their education (48%) and become financially independent from their parents (46%). Four out of 10 say they traveled to other countries (43%), started a career (41%) and became spiritually mature (40%). Milestones that ranked lower on the list included getting married (25%), caring for the poor and needy (25%) and buying a home (21%).

Practicing Christians are leading young adults in focusing on family, with nearly one in three (32%) reporting they’ve already gotten married (vs. 26% non-practicing Christians, 29% practicing other faith and 18% no faith) and 37 percent reporting becoming a parent (vs. 34% non-practicing Christians, 31% practicing other faith and 25% no faith). Additionally, just over half say they have already become spiritually mature (53% vs. 39% non-practicing Christians, 43% practicing other faith and 33% no faith).

Looking toward the future and, more specifically, establishing priorities for the next 10 years, a large percentage of young adults expresses a desire to now buy a home (53%), get married (41%) or become a parent (33%).

While family-oriented goals may climb higher on the list of priorities as these respondents move further into adulthood, nearly four in 10 young adults also aim to follow their dreams (38%) and about one in three wants to start a business (36%), travel to other countries (32%) or become financially independent from their parents (30%).

Nearly three in 10 young adults (29%) want to start their career within the next 10 years, with a slightly smaller percentage still seeking to finish their education (28%). One in four says they want to find out who they really are (24%) in the coming decade, affirming the reality that, while this generation is more globally connected than any before, a significant portion still feels isolated or is seeking to discover their identity and place in the world. 

Goals that did not make the top 10 list for young adults around the world include caring for the poor and needy (23%), becoming more mature spiritually (21%) and enjoying life before having more responsibilities (20%). However, a greater percentage of practicing Christian young adults reports accomplishing or prioritizing some of these goals; for example, one in three desires to care for the poor and needy within the next 10 years (32% vs. 21% non-practicing Christians, 26% practicing other faith and 17% no faith).

Data show that Millennials and Gen Z are extremely success-oriented, with both generations moving further away from more traditional life goals of generations past to a life course that demands achievement or at least stability in their education, career and finances. Accordingly, The Connected Generation research uncovered that young adults are just as likely to feel “optimistic about the future” as “uncertain about the future,” as well as “afraid to fail” and “anxious about important decisions” (40% each). Another 36 percent say they feel “pressure to be successful.”

How can the Church partner with and empower young adults as they move toward a future that can sometimes feel uncertain? Read more about helping an anxiety-ridden generation find peace or learn how other faith leaders and experts are addressing these concerns.

The Connected Generation

How Christian Leaders Around the World Can Strengthen Faith & Well-being Among 18-35 Year-Olds

This article is written from research found in the newly released The Connected Generation study. Purchase the report or access a suite of related resources at

Comment on this research and follow our work:
Twitter: @davidkinnaman | @brookehempell | @barnagroup
Facebook: Barna Group

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

About the Research

About the Research
This study is based on online, representative public opinion surveys conducted by Barna Group. A total of 15,369 respondents ages 18 to 35 across 25 countries were surveyed between December 4, 2018 and February 15, 2019. See full details of sample distribution based on continent and country at Unless otherwise noted, all data referenced in The Connected Generation were collected by Barna, among a nationally representative sample of the population identified. For this study, Barna relied on online collection methods, including mobile phone users. The study used online national consumer panels that are representative by age, gender, region and ethnicity. Respondents were fully verified by the representative sample sources. Additionally, quality control measures checked that respondents were completing the survey at an appropriate pace and paying attention to the questions asked. The survey was offered in nine different languages, (English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Romanian, Korean, Indonesian and Taiwanese), translated by a trusted translation service and verified by local partners in every country for context-specific nuance. Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s International Data Base, the CIA World Fact Book and available census data from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Chile, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, the UK, Germany, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, Romania, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, India, Philippines and Singapore, quotas were designed to ensure the final group of adults interviewed in the study reflected each country’s distribution of adults nationwide based on age, gender, ethnicity and region. Online surveys necessitate literacy and an internet connection, which means the sample reflects adults who have those capabilities and does not reflect those who are unable to read or lack connectivity to respond to online surveys. Thus, in spite of a robust methodology, this sample is not meant to be representative of entire national populations, regions, continents or the world. The countries selected for this study were based on countries and regions where Barna and World Vision receive frequent requests for research-based insights. These and other concerns or limitations were respectfully considered while interpreting the data.

© Barna Group, 2023.

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

Barna Access Plus

Lead with Insight

Strengthen your message, train your team and grow your church with cultural insights and practical resources, all in one place.

Get Barna in your inbox

Subscribe to Barna’s free newsletters for the latest data and insights to navigate today’s most complex issues.