Euro crisis spurs Italy's 'big baby' boom: grown children living with parents
New research says that a third of adult Italians – and more than 60 percent of young adults – live with their parents. Experts say that hard economic times have exacerbated the cultural phenom.
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Finding a well-paid position in almost any profession often relies on personal connections, or "raccomandazioni," more than just merit. Of those who do have jobs, many are on precarious, short-term contracts that make it hard to commit to a mortgage or property rental contract.Skip to next paragraph
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So while it may be easy to portray stay-at-home Italians as idle or overcosseted by their doting mothers and fathers, that is unfair and over-simplistic, says Roberto D'Alimonte, a political scientist at Luiss University in Rome.
"I think 'bamboccioni' has a very unfortunate, negative connotation and should not be used," he says. "It is true that there is a cultural predisposition for young Italians to stay close to their parents, but the biggest factors are economic. Italians can't afford to leave home. When my son graduated as an engineer, his first job paid him €800 a month – that was not enough even to pay for the rent in Milan."
They are left with little choice but to remain living at home, often to an age that would be regarded as socially embarrassing in northern Europe and North America – a quarter of Italians ages 30 to 44 still live with their mother and father, the survey found.
The harsh economic climate of the past four years has also seen a rise in the number of young people in the United States forced to remain living with their parents, Professor D'Alimonte says. "So now you have bamboccioni in the US," he says. "It's not just Italy anymore."
In Italy, the tight family structure is seen largely as a positive thing – in fact, Coldiretti and Censis called their report "The economic crisis – living together, living better."
"The structure of the Italian family has shown to be fundamental in saving many people from difficulty in the current economic crisis," says Sergio Marini, the president of Coldiretti. "Solidarity between the generations on which the family is founded is proving to be a winning model for living well and staying together, and not a sign of social and cultural backwardness, as many people persist in claiming."
While Coldiretti argued that Italians' reluctance to break out of the family home is a strength, others see it as a weakness. It impairs mobility and economic growth – a young teacher from the Veneto region of northern Italy may be reluctant to take up a job in Sicily in the deep south because of the pull of his or her family.
A couple of years ago, a cabinet minister came up with a drastic solution to the problem; proposing legislation that would make it compulsory for teenagers to leave home once they reached adulthood.
But when challenged on the idea, Renato Brunetta, the minister in charge of streamlining the country's bureaucracy, sheepishly admitted that he, too, had struggled to cut free from the cozy safety net of the family home and that his mother had made his bed for him until he was 30. His proposal was swiftly shelved.