Share of young adults living with their parents hits four-decade high

Declining employment, rising college enrollment, and declining marriage rates among Millennials appear to be behind the trend, which was studied by the Pew Research Center.

More than a third of young adults lived at their parents’ home in 2012, the highest rate in at least four decades, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center.

Thirty-six percent of America’s so-called Millennial generation – young adults aged 18 to 31 – lived at home last year, compared with 32 percent in 2007, prior to the Great Recession. In 2009, the year the recession officially ended, 34 percent of Millennials lived at home.

“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 states. 

Key among those factors are declining employment, rising college enrollment, and declining marriage rates, according to the report.

“I think part of this trend is indeed a reflection of the weak labor market and difficult job prospects, says Richard Fry, the report’s author. “More young adults are living with their mom or dad, but nationally, jobholding hasn’t really increased much.”

In 2012, 63 percent of 18-to-31-year-olds had jobs, compared with 70 percent in 2007. Millennials without jobs were much more likely to live at home than their employed counterparts: 45 percent to 29 percent, according to the report.

Over the past five years, the percentage of 18-to-24-year-olds enrolled in college rose from 35 percent in March 2007 to 39 percent in March 2012. Overall, at least a third and perhaps as many as half of the Millennials living at home are college students, and this includes those who live in college dormitories during the academic year, according to the report.

The percentage of married Millennials, aged 18 to 31, declined from 30 percent in 2007 to 25 percent in 2012.

Lauren Rikleen, executive in residence at the Boston College Center for Work & Family who is writing a book about Millennials in the workforce, says she meets Millennials living at home “all the time.”

“I don’t see any stigma at all anymore. The stigma would be a sense of wistfulness that they wished they were independent. I see more often a sense of real appreciation for the safety net,” she says.

“By and large, it’s really interesting to watch because in many respects, it’s become normative because the options are so limited," she says. "Home is the place where they take you in."

A separate Pew study last year found that Millennials are largely happy with their situation, with 78 percent satisfied with their living arrangements.

Less research has been published about how parents are feeling. A guide published last year by AARP offered eight tips for parents when their adult kids move back home. Among them: No hot meals all the time, set a deadline, and don’t be an ATM machine.

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