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For Your Marriage

Marriage Today covers current trends and research pertaining to marriage and family life in today's world.

More Young Adults Live At Home With Their Parents

The percentage of young adults living at home with parents continues to grow in the United States. The Pew Research Center based in Washington now labels this phenomenon “a new trend.”

I might call it a sign that families, in every generation, must deal with challenging realities of their times; it appears to me to take longer today for many young people to find their way in the world, particularly under difficult economic conditions. But isn’t it also a sign in most cases of the goodness of families? They take each other in; they serve each other supportively.

A Pew research analysis released Aug. 1 reported that “36 percent of the nation’s young adults ages 18 to 31 — the so-called millennial generation — were living in their parents’ home” in 2012. The oldest members of the millennial generation were born in 1982.

The Pew center based these findings on an analysis of March 2012 U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The percentage of young and mostly single adults now living with parents represents “the highest share in at least four decades,” according to the Pew center. Today, it indicated, we are witnessing “a slow but steady increase over the 32 percent of their same-aged counterparts who were living at home prior to the Great Recession in 2007 and the 34 percent doing so when it officially ended in 2009.”

It said, “Since 2007, young adults have grown increasingly likely to live at home.”

Post-Recession Increase

Once the recent recession got under way, it was common to cite the economic downturn as an underlying cause of the increase in multigenerational living arrangements for families. More and more young adults who were out of work or had their hours at work reduced were living at home, unable to afford housing costs on their own.

The Pew center does not deny that society’s continuing economic woes contribute to the ongoing increase of young adults living at home. Young adults continue to suffer from the jobs shortage, it pointed out.

What was most surprising to me in the new Pew analysis, however, was its finding not only that the percentage of young people living at home did not decline after the recession’s official end, but continued to grow.

“The steady rise in the share of young adults who live in their parents’ home appears to be driven by a combination of economic, educational and cultural factors,” the Pew report stated. However, it explained:

“Even if the composition of young adults had remained unchanged in terms of college enrollment, employment and marital status, more young adults would be living at home in 2012 than before the recession.”

It is not very surprising to hear that the percentage of young adults between 18 and 24 living at home is growing. For one thing, this group includes so many college students, a group counted by the U.S. Census Bureau as living at home even if they live much of the year in college dormitories. An increased rate of college enrollment between 2007 and 2012 was cited by the Pew report as a factor in the higher percentage of young people living at home.

What is a little more surprising is to learn that more of the older millennials between 25 and 31 are living at home, though the growth trend for this group is slower. The Pew center noted that “since the onset of the 2007-2009 recession,” both younger and the older millennials “have experienced a rise in this living arrangement.”

Underlying Factors

The rise in the average age at which young people marry, and thus the decline of marriages among millennials, is another likely contributor to the greater number of those living at home with parents. The report pointed out that just “25 percent of millennials were married in 2012, a decline from the 30 percent of 18- to 31-year-olds who were married in 2007.”

Actually, “relatively few married millennials reside in their parents’ home (3 percent in 2012), so the downturn in nuptials may be associated with an increase in living at home,” along with other factors like the jobs shortage and the higher rate of college enrollment.

The Pew analysis indicated that while these factors help to explain the increased numbers of young adults living at home with parents, this “new trend” is complex. It clearly needs to be studied further.

The report just released by the Pew center is not its first on the phenomenon of young adults living at home. I earlier wrote about a study it conducted at the end of 2011 on young adults returning home to live for awhile – the boomerang generation – and how their families felt about this.

“If there’s supposed to be a stigma attached to living with mom and dad through one’s late 20s or early 30s,” the Pew center concluded that “today’s ‘boomerang generation’ didn’t get that memo.”

The center noted that “parents who say their adult children have moved back in with them are just as satisfied with their family life and housing situation as are those parents whose adult children have not moved back home.”

“The same can be said of the adult children,” it added. “Fully 68 percent of young adults ages 18 to 34” living with parents or who had moved back in temporarily due to economic conditions said they were “very satisfied with their family life.”

About the author 
David Gibson served for 37 years on the editorial staff at Catholic News Service, where he was the founding and long-time editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service. David received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Minnesota and an M.A. in religious education from The Catholic University of America. Married for 38 years, he and his wife have three adult daughters and six grandchildren.