With graduation season in full swing, many parents will wave wistfully as they see their children set off on their own. But don’t fret. There’s a good chance the kids won’t be gone long.
More than ever, young people in the United States are moving back into their childhood bedrooms – that is, if they ever leave at all.
A dear friend of mine, a member of the baby boom generation, is bemused and puzzled to see that his two children, both in their 20s, recently left their lives of independence to move in with their mother. It’s an idea almost unimaginable to the so-called “Me Generation.” For those who questioned authority and blazed new paths during the protest movements of the 1960s and ’70s, and who rallied under the slogan, “Never trust anyone over 30,” it is inconceivable that young adults would want to move back in with Mom or Dad.
Whoever said “you can’t go home again” is being proved wrong by today’s millennials. The portion of young adults ages 18 to 34 who live with their parents is greater today than it was during even the Great Recession, according to a 2015 Pew study.
While the number of 18- to 34-year-olds grew by nearly 3 million between 2007 and 2015, the number heading their own households actually declined, Pew found. One in five people in their 20s and early 30s lives with his or her parents, up from 10 percent a generation ago, according to The New York Times.
Part of it is simply economics. The recession made it harder to find well-paying jobs and saw millions lose their homes. Also, young people are less likely to be married in their 20s now, meaning fewer are taking on adult responsibilities such as homeownership.
In the case of my friend, his children are in the Bay Area, where the demand for scarce housing pushed up rents by nearly 10 percent last year, putting average rent for a studio apartment at a whopping $2,120 a month, according to a report by The Mercury News. Try affording that on an early-career salary while paying off student debt.
Americans are carrying more student loan obligations than any generation before, with 43 million borrowers owing a total of $1.3 trillion, according to StudentLoanHero.com. Members of the Class of 2016 not only can show off their diplomas, they can boast an average of $37,172 in debt, up about 6 percent from last year.
Even for older adults, it has become more common to find oneself living again with one’s parents. Divorce may send 30- or 40-somethings back home, particularly for suddenly single parents who appreciate the built-in child care than can come from such arrangements.
The trend toward multigenerational households has been picking up steam across mainstream America over the past 30 years, the Times noted. For families from ethnic communities, however, it’s one that’s long been part of the culture. Asian, Latino and African American families traditionally have seen such shared households as the norm. Whether its children living at home until they marry, or elderly parents moving in to receive care from their loved ones, the idea of extended families living together is familiar. Immigrants are more likely to live in multigenerational families, according to Generations United, a Washington, D.C.-based group that promotes programs and policies to connect people of different ages.
One in six Americans lives in a multigeneration household, a number that rose 10.5 percent just from 2007 to 2009, Generations United found. About 4.2 million of the 113.6 million U.S. households consist of three or more generations.
It’s a trend that housing developers are catching onto. The Miami-based homebuilder Lennar is among the developers creating homes for multigenerational living, with ground-floor master suites suitable for older relatives, separate entry doors, and communal spaces that allow for shared family time.
In an interview with CNBC, John Burns of John Burns Real Estate Consulting said 44 percent of some 20,000 would-be home buyers surveyed by his firm said they would like to accommodate their elderly parents in their next home and 42 percent said they plan to accommodate their adult children.
“The baby boomers were just very unique,” Burns said. “They are really the only generation in history that would move out of the house as soon as they got out of high school or college.”
Bad news for parents hoping to turn that “extra” bedroom into a yoga room or man cave, perhaps, but good news for families hoping to keep their loved ones within arm’s reach.