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For the Most Part, Few Young Adults Live With Their Parents

Mon Nov 24 2014
Jonathan Vespa, David Ihrke, Ellyn Arevalo Steidl
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People may think that today’s young adults, often called “millennials” — the so-called “boomerang generation”— are flocking to their parents’ basement instead of moving out on their own.

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However, a look at the data suggest that the anecdotal “truth” is a bit of an exaggeration. Although it is true that a record number of young adults live in their parents’ home, in reality only a small fraction actually do so. For every 100 people age 25 to 34, 14 lived in a parent’s household last year (see figure). Before the Great Recession, which lasted from 2007 to 2009, that number was just 12 out of 100. Far more young adults — 44 of out 100 — were married and living with their spouse last year and not living with a parent.

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The rise in the percentage of young adults living with parents has been a demographic trend that actually began with the baby boomers, years before the current generation. For much of the 1960s and 1970s, the share of young adults living with a parent stayed around 8 percent. That number swelled throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the same time as many baby boomers were reaching the 25-34 year old age group, and climbed to 12 percent by 1995.

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After a dip that began at the end of the 1990s and lasted a decade, the number began rising again in 2006 — notably before the Great Recession began. In other words, today’s young adults are repeating the behaviors of their boomer parents who, a generation earlier, swelled the ranks of young adults who were living with mom and dad.

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This isn’t to say that the recent recession had no effect; we’ll look at its role in our next blog. Over the last 40 years, however, there has not always been an increase in living with a parent following downturns in the economy. When put in a broader context, the recent rise in living with a parent is quite modest and, in fact, follows a long-term demographic shift in the nation’s population. So instead of describing millennials as failing to launch, it may be more appropriate to say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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Want to see how the trend has gone in your hometown? Check back next week for more information from the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey data release.

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