More Millennials in the Basement

Obamaconomy: For first time since 1880s, young adults more likely to live with parents than with spouse or partner

Shellshocked by a sluggish economy and less drawn to marriage than those of previous generations, young adults now are more likely to live at home with their parents than with spouses or partners, according to a Pew Research Center study published this week.

The year 1880 was the last time when living at home was the most common arrangement for young adults.

That has not been the case since the 1880s, and the trend holds enormous implications for the economic and political future of the country, according to experts. Richard Fy, an economist for Pew who prepared the report, wrote that young men have increasingly struggled in the labor market since the 1960s. He noted that 84 percent of men ages 18 to 34 were employed in 1960, a share that dropped to 67 percent following the Great Recession.

“The fall in young men’s employment and earnings since 1970 has likely made living independently more difficult for them, which in turn helps account for the rise in the share of young adults living with their parent(s),” he wrote.

In 2014, 32.1 percent of young adults were living with a parent, compared with 31.6 percent who were living with a spouse or romantic partner, and 14 percent who were single parents or living alone. Another 22 percent had other living arrangements, such as a college dormitory or prison.

The share of adults living with their parents has been rising since the 1960s but is still below the 35 percent level in 1940s. But the trend has coincided with another: delayed marriage. The average age of marriage has been rising for decades for both men and women. Put them together, and 1880 was the last year where living at home was the most common arrangement for young adults.

[lz_third_party includes=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ela2m1FyuN8″]

The percentage of young adults living with parents has risen across the board, but has been particularly pronounced for people with a high school degree or less. About 4 in 10 in that group live with parents, compared with 19 percent for college graduates. Alan Tonelson, an economic policy analyst, said that reflects changes to the economy that have swept away middle-skills jobs due to outsourcing and automation.

“There’s no question that so-called blue-collar jobs have been vanishing rapidly in this economy,” he said. “It really has raised the question in the minds of people who think about this: Is this going to be fundamentally different from previous waves of automation [that created more jobs than they killed]? I don’t know the answer to this.”

The Pew study makes clear that the trend is much deeper than the effects of the last recession. It has been going on for decades. Emily Jashinsky, a spokeswoman for the conservative Young America’s Foundation, pointed to another cause — student loan debt. She said many college graduates now carry debt that rivals the cost of a home down payment.

“It makes a lot of sense to choose one or another,” she said.

Jashinksy said President Obama panders to her generation but has done little to alleviate the student loan burden, one of the reasons why the “youth misery index” that the organization developed has risen during his tenure.

[lz_table title=”18- to 34-Year Olds’ Living Arrangements” source=”Pew Research”]
Young adults living with parents more common than ever
|Living in Parents Home
|Living Alone/Single Parents
|Other Living Arrangement

Peter Sprigg, a senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council, said longer stints at home may delay maturation and lead to fewer children in the long run. That has demographic consequences for the country, he said.

“It make me wonder if we’re really doing a good job teaching young people how to be adults,” he said.

Sprigg said later marriages also increase the likelihood of premarital sex and cohabitation, both of which, he added, carry physical and psychological risks.

“Although people may be postponing marriage, they’re not necessarily postponing sexual activity,” he said. “We’re strong believers in the concept of family formation.”

Tonelson said having more adults living with their parents can have negative repercussions — not just for them, but the entire economy. Household formation triggers demand for cars, furniture, appliances, and everything else that fills a house or apartment. He said stunting the growth of new households saps consumer demand that is the engine of the American economy.

“There is no question that the multiplier effect throughout the economy would be substantial,” he said.

Tonelson said some of the causes, like technological innovation that reduces the need for employees, is out of the control of policymakers. But he pointed to other choices that are within the government’s control, like cheap-money policies that drive housing costs in many cities beyond the reach of most young people.

Sprigg said sometimes well-meaning government policies can encourage more adults to stay at home instead of venturing out. He pointed to the provision of the Affordable Care Act that lets children stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.

“One of the unintended consequences is people remain dependent on their parents longer,” he said.