My son turned eight last week, and I’ve spent the past seven days sort of misty-eyed about how he only has ten more years living with me in my home. Ten short years, and then he’s off to college, adulthood, perhaps marriage, a home of his own …
… Er, or maybe not.
Because according to a newly-released study from the Pew Research Center, for the “first time in the modern era,” 18- to 34-year olds are more likely to live with their parents than with a spouse or partner.
Let’s just pause for a moment and really take that in, shall we? For the first time since 1880, the most common living scenario for today’s young adults is living at home with Mom and Dad.
The study is fascinating and worth a read in full; I was especially interested in the reasons why this shift has occurred. The main cause? People don’t get married in their early twenties anymore. Or as researchers put it, there’s been a “dramatic drop in the share of young Americans who are choosing to settle down romantically before age 35.” The study’s authors also note that the median age of first marriage has risen steadily for decades.
And Pew suggests that millennials aren’t just delaying marriage — they may not plan to marry at all. Pew calls this “the postponement of, if not retreat from, marriage,” and points out that “a growing share of young adults may be eschewing marriage altogether.”
And it turns out my son is more likely to move back into his childhood bedroom than my two daughters. According to the study, today 28% of millennial American men live with a spouse or romantic partner, versus 35% who live with parents. In contrast, 35% of millennial American women live with a spouse or romantic partner, as compared to 29% who live with their parents.
There’s no clear reason why young men choose to live at home more than young women, although I’m crystal clear about one thing: If my one of my kids doesn’t get married and make me a grandmother at some point, I’m going to be really bummed out.
But I digress.
Putting aside the fact that young Americans seem to prefer living with mom and/or dad to living with a romantic partner, there are other factors in play. An obvious reason for the shift is the Great Recession. Although we’ve seen some economic recovery, the job market just isn’t as good as it used to be, and overall wages fell quite a bit from 2000-2010. Fewer jobs and lower wages equal more twenty-somethings camped out in their parents’ basements, enjoying the comforts of home-cooked food and on-premises laundry facilities.
On a more positive note, though, researchers report that college enrollment has expanded. This has had the added side effect of “boosting the ranks of young adults living at home.” Certainly we can all agree that more people earning college degrees is a good thing. Plus, college students stealing their parents’ WiFi seems somehow better than young unemployed people stealing their parents’ WiFi.
The study also breaks down the numbers for various demographic groups, including different ethnicities and educational levels. The most important takeaway, however, is that the overall trend is the same for every single group: living with parents is increasingly common. No matter how you slice it, the numbers are clear: For the first time in 136 years, young Americans are more likely to be living with their parents than in any other living arrangement.
The bottom line? Maybe I shouldn’t count on converting my son’s bedroom into my home office after all.