It's always been my understanding that age precedes nationality in standard adjective order (see, for example, The Royal Order of Adjectives); thus, it should be "young Italian adults" rather than "Italian young adults".
However, I'm revising a demographic study and decided to double check this by searching Google Scholar. To my surprise, I found 539 uses of the latter vs. 217 of the former. Regular Google delivers 88,700(!) vs. 1830, and I get similar results with various nationalities and also from Google Books (though not from the news).
I don't think such a large discrepancy could be ascribed to overall misuse, and the "incorrect" order occurs mostly in academic texts. So, my questions:
- Is there some reason why the order of age and origin adjectives should be reversed in academic (specifically demographic) texts?
- Is that really the standard?