Young Adults Now More Likely to Live With Parents Than Ever Before
by Alexandra Lahoud
In a May 24, 2016 article in The Washington Post, Tara Bahrampour assesses the difference between the number of young adults who lived in their parents’ homes in 1960 and today. She also analyzes the decreased percentage of young people who are currently getting married. In the 1960s, adults aged 18 to 34 years strived to marry young; it was considered a societal norm, and only a small percentage of young people did not marry and raise children before the age of 35. However, societal norms have changed since then, and as a result, fewer young people are getting married; those that do are getting married later. In 1956, the median age of marriage was 20.1 for women and 22.5 for men; today, the median age for women is 27.1 and 29.2 for men.
If fewer young adults are living with a spouse, then who are they living with? According to a 2014 Census Bureau report , it has become increasingly common for young people to live with their parents, more common than living with a spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, or roommates. Bahrampour indicates that 19% of young people lived with their parents in 1960, whereas 30% of young people reported living with their parents in 2014. Bahrampour lists and explains several novel cultural factors that have contributed to the increase of young people living at home in their 20’s and 30’s, and at the same time contribute to a decline in marriage (Read research here). Note that there are also young adults who do marry but continue to live with one of the spouse’s parents, sometimes by choice and other times by necessity – see factors below.
One major cultural factor that has influenced the decline of marriage and resulted in more young adults living at home is the aspiration that young people have to attain higher education. In the 1960s, it was rare for young people to attend school after their early 20s. However, young people today seek out higher degrees of education well into their 20s. As a result, 18-34-year- old’s face large student loans, making it that much more difficult to move out, marry and raise families.
Another factor is the higher cost of living throughout the country. Young people struggle to pay off student loans and save enough to move into a place of their own. The prospect of raising children with lingering debt seems both impractical and unappealing to many. Therefore, in the eyes of young people today, the opportunity to live at home seems that much more sensible.
In addition, the make-up of “family” has shifted in the last 50 years. There are fewer social stigmas against children born out of wedlock now compared to 50 years ago. Additionally, women are encouraged in the present day to attain professional careers and to live on their own. This was not the case in the 1960s, when the majority of women married young and were not active in the workforce. Overall, the general expectations of society today differ from those in the 1960s. Young people do not feel as much social pressure to strike out on their own and get married, with both positive and negative results.
To conclude, Bahrampour suggests that evidently there is a decline in the nuclear family, and instead, more diversity within family systems in the United States. While there are pros and cons for living at home and for marrying and raising children, it is evident that in the current day and age, some young people prefer living at home and establishing careers for themselves while others may struggle to meet financial premarital goals or find the right spouse. Therefore, both marriage and leaving the family home are less common practices than they used to be.
About the author
Currently studying theology and psychology at Saint Vincent College, Alexandra Lahoud is an intern for the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth at the USCCB.