Whether adulthood begins at age 20, 25, or even later, as illustrated in Figure 1-1 adults are far and away the largest portion of the general population. Over 74% of the entire U.S. population consists of adults over 18 years of age. These percentages vary with gender and ethnicity. In 1997, approximately 48% of those 18 years and over were male; 52% female; 84% white; 11.7% black; .8% Native American, Eskimo, and Aleut; 3.6% Asian/Pacific Islander; and 9.5% of Hispanic1 origin (unpublished data, U.S. Bureau of the Census). The percentages of older adolescents and adults in the populations of Canada, Europe, and East Asia are similar to those of the United States, but they are substantially lower in the countries of Africa, Southeast and Western Asia, and South and Central America (Population Reference Bureau, 1997).
The poorer nutrition and higher incidence of infectious diseases in many of these countries severely limits the number of individuals surviving into adulthood and particularly old age. Consequently, only 56% of Africans, 67% of South Americans, 64% of Southeast Asians, and 68% of West Asians are estimated as being over 14 years old (Population Reference Bureau, 1997).
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