You might like this video version of some of the material discussed below
According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2011, nearly 3.0 million adults aged between 20 and 34 were living with a parent or parents, an increase of almost half a million, or 20 per cent, since 1997. This is despite the number of people in the population aged 20 to 34 being largely the same in 1997 and 2011. This means that nearly 1/3 men and 1/7 women in the UK now live with their parents.
If you look at just 30 somethings, however, then the numbers drop to just 5% of women and 10% of men living with their parents
However – Not all ‘Kippers*’ are the same! (*Kids living in their parents’ pockets)
It is important to keep in mind that not all ‘adult kids’ are the same; experiences of living at home with your parents into your 30s will vary.
For example, the experience of being a NEET and living at home with your parents may well be different to being one of the ‘Boomerang Kids’ – who move out to go to university but then move back in with their parents afterwards
Some adult kids would have lived at home continuously, but many would have moved out for a period with a partner, and then moved back in again.
Adult-Kids will also vary as to the extent to which they are forced into living with their parents due to financial reasons, or choose to do so for ‘lifestyle reasons’.
Experiences will also differ depending on parental attitudes to having their adult children living with them.
Why are increasing numbers of ‘adult children’ living with their parents?
Many commentators stress that young adults have no choice but to live with their parents, focusing on structural (mainly economic) reasons that force people to live with their parents.
The following structural changes mean it is harder for young people to transition to independent living.
- The massive expansion in higher education has seen the number of undergraduate students triple since 1970, from 414,000 to 1.27 million – this means more young adults are not in work and economically dependent on their parents for longer.
- The recent recession has been accompanied by a sharp increase in unemployment rates among young adults,” This means that recent graduates, especially men, are increasingly returning to live with their parents after graduating. Their numbers are being swelled by the increasing levels of student debt they have accumulated by the time they finish their studies.
- Then there are changes in the housing market. Even those in work cannot afford to move out of the family home as first-time buyers now face house prices that are, on average, five times average incomes, compared with a multiple of three times 20 years ago.
However, there are also cultural changes which mean young adults are more likely to choose to live with their parents even when they could move out.
- There is more uncertainty about what a ‘normal relationship’ is. Changing roles of men and women and changing expectations of relationships and family life result in young people being more reluctant to settle down in a classic long term relationship.
- The meaning of ‘being 20 something is different today to what it was in the 1970s. Today, we simply want to ‘settle down’ later in life – 20s have become about ‘pulling and dating’, ‘30s about serious long term relationships, and late 30s about children. Of those 20 somethings who do flee the parental nest, they are increasingly likely to either live alone or share with friends. The number of young couple households has been decreasing in recent years.
- The increasing number of ‘kippers’ might also be linked to the increasing instability of relationships. There are plenty of late 20s and 30 somethings who have previously moved in with a partner for a few years, suffered a relationship breakdown, ended up back with their parents and are now reluctant to recommit!
See this Guardian post for further info
Perspectives on the ‘not quite children’
Most of the commentary on this social trend seems to be negative – focusing on such things as:
Some research, however, suggests that adults living at home with their parents can be a positive thing – As this research, based on 500 ‘adult-kids’ in the USA suggests
‘Few 20-somethings who live at home are mooching off their parents. More often, they are using the time at home to gain necessary credentials and save money for a more secure future.
Helicopter parents aren’t so bad after all. Involved parents provide young people with advantages, including mentoring and economic support, that have become increasingly necessary to success.’
Find out More
For More posts on families and households please click here
For a more extended discussion of trends which lie behind increasing family diversity please click here
Nice blog post on ‘how returning to live with our parents in our 30s benefited both sides’
BBC News – 1.6 Million people aged 20-40 live with their parents
Barbara Ellen of the Guardian really doesn’t approve – NB most of the commentators don’t approve of her views either!
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Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a psychologist at Clark University who coined the term “emerging adulthood,” sees boomerang kids as the continuation of this centuries-long trend. Returning home, he told me, is a rational response to a radically different, confusing postindustrial economy. In past generations, most people took whatever work was available and, crucially, learned the necessary skills on the job. From 1945 to around 1978, amid the postwar boom, work life in America was especially benign and predictable. The wage gap between rich and poor shrank to its lowest level on record, and economic growth was widely shared.
But we now know that, during the ’70s, this system was becoming unhinged. Computer technology and global trade forced manual laborers to compete with machines at home and with low-wage workers in other countries. The changes first affected blue-collar workers, but many white-collar workers performing routine tasks, like office support or drafting or bookkeeping, were also seeing their job prospects truncated. At the same time, these developments were hugely beneficial to elite earners, who now had access to a larger, global market and productivity-enhancing technology. They were assisted by changes in government policy — taxes were cut, welfare programs were eliminated — that further rewarded the wealthy and removed support for the poor.
Millennials’ parents could be forgiven for underestimating the consequences of these trends. For most of American history, it was natural for each generation to become richer than the previous one. Now that’s no longer true. These changes created a new, far less predictable dynamic — some people would do much better than their parents could have ever dreamed; others would fall permanently behind. Given the volatility of the changes, the idea of an “average” worker was becoming obsolete. And while much of the discussion about economic inequality has centered on the top 1 percent, it’s the gap between the top 20 percent and the rest that’s more salient to young people. “That is a dividing point,” says Mark Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis. People in the top 20 percent of income — roughly $100,000 in 2013 — have taken nearly all the economic gains of the past 40 years. (Of course, the top 1 percent and, even more so, the top 0.01 percent, has taken a far more disproportionate share).
This uncomfortable fact, which many economists have recently accepted, suggests that we are living not simply in an unequal society but rather in two separate, side-by-side economies. For those who can crack the top 20 percent, there is great promise. Most people in that elite group, Rank told me, will spend at least part of their careers among the truly affluent, earning more than $250,000 a year. For those at work in the much larger pool, there will be falling or stagnant wages and far greater uncertainty. A college degree is an advantage, but it no longer offers any guarantee, especially for those who graduate from lower-ranked for-profit schools. These days, a degree is merely the expensive price of admission. In 1970 only one in 10 Americans had a bachelor’s degree, and nearly all could expect a comfortable career. Today, about a third of young adults will earn a four-year-degree, and many of them — more than a third, by many estimates — are unlikely to find lifelong secure employment sufficient to pay down their debt and place them on track to earn more than their parents. If they want a shot at making it into the top 20 percent, they now need to learn a skill before they get a job. And for many, even with their parents’ help, that’s going to be an impossibility.
For all these grim forecasts, people now in their 20s are remarkably optimistic. Arnett, who recently conducted a nationwide poll of the group, discovered that 77 percent still believe they will be better off than their parents. A Pew survey found that only 9 percent of young adults believe they won’t be able to afford the lives they want. This combination of confidence in the face of historic uncertainty might seem confusing, but Arnett argues that optimistic boomerang kids might not be as blithely naïve as their parents imagine. Many are rejecting the Dilbertian goal of a steady, if unsatisfying, job for years of experimentation, even repeated failure, that eventually leads to a richly satisfying career. Sleeping in a twin bed under some old Avril Lavigne posters is not a sign of giving up; it’s an economic plan. “Stop dumping on them because they need parental support,” Arnett cautioned. “It doesn’t mean they’re lazy. It’s just harder to make your way now than it was in an older and simpler economy.”
Adrianne Smith, 28, graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2008 and went to work as a behavioral analyst treating children on the autism spectrum. She was quickly making more than $60,000 a year, but in order to earn that money, “I had a huge caseload,” she said, handling 25 clients while paying off more than $40,000 in student loans. She knew of therapists earning $100,000 annually, but they did so by handling 40 or more physically and emotionally demanding cases.
So Smith came up with a more efficient idea. After doing some research on local clinics, she noticed that a rise in autism diagnoses mirrored the rising demand for clinic services. And with the convenience of modern technology, from smartphones to their attendant payment readers, she could build a clinic serving clients in their homes, one that could be leveraged into a larger regional network. With a bit of hustle, Smith thought, she could set herself up with a profitable business that would give her returns for the rest of her life. To afford the start-up costs, she moved back in with her parents, turned her sister’s old room into an office where she could work and store toys for her clients, and used what would have been rent money to develop a website and hire a few part-time therapists to make house calls. “I couldn’t have opened a clinic without my parents’ support,” she said. Now when Smith meets peers who deride her for living at home, she replies that it’s really just a business incubator.
I wasn’t surprised that Arnett was impressed by Smith’s plan. But I didn’t expect him to praise Kasinecz too. At 27, she had a lot of debt, no career in mind and a series of unsatisfying jobs. I worried that her prospects were dimming, that crossing that 20 percent threshold would seem harder and harder with each passing year. She seemed worried, too. “We’re kind of in this limbo phase where we’re expected to be these great professionals who come out of college with bomb-ass jobs,” she said of her generation. “And then we’re like, Wait. I’ve got 80 grand in debt. How am I supposed to do that?”
Arnett told me, however, that I wasn’t seeing her hidden strengths. In fact, he would be far more worried if she had done what the previous generations did — stayed in whatever job she took after graduating, no matter how little she liked it — or if she were similarly underemployed but expressed no urgency about finding a better job. Kasinecz, he said, was still searching for the right fit and refusing to settle for anything less. Somewhat counterintuitively, Arnett said, it’s the people most actively involved in this struggle, the ones who at times seem totally lost, who are likely to find their way. Kasinecz seemed to know this, too. And in that sense, she was emblematic of a generation in which there are no more average workers and even less certainty. Kasinecz may well find a job she likes and, eventually, the right career — even if she terrifies her mother, herself and a few hand-wringing economists in the process.
Correction: July 6, 2014
A picture caption on June 22 with an article about young adults who live with their parents described incorrectly the firm for which Alexandria Romo works. It is a corporate-security firm, not a security-guard firm.