Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Living at Home

From the Atlantic:

The number of American adults who have returned to living at home is enormous. A recent analysis of government data by the real-estate website Zillow indicated that about 2.9 million adults moved in with a parent or grandparent in March, April, and May, if college students were included; most of them were 25 or younger. Their sudden dispersal into their parents’ homes is, for some, the result of the suspension of spring classes on college campuses and, for others, the result of miserable economic conditions. A survey from the Pew Research Center in March found that the younger an American adult is, the more likely that the pandemic has deprived them or someone in their household of work or earnings. Rent and other expenses got harder to cover, or simply to justify, for a large group of young people, so they moved home.

In many segments of American society, living with one’s parents is seen as a mark of irresponsibility and laziness. The wave of young adults who have recently relocated is a symptom of a grave economic and public-health catastrophe, but living at home is not in and of itself a bad thing. In fact, one could even argue that it’s been unjustifiably stigmatized. Perhaps the pandemic is an occasion—an unwelcome one, sure—to reappraise a living arrangement that is often maligned, yet has become more and more common, in part because of how the past few decades have altered the arc of American adulthood.

The millions of young people living at home because of the pandemic may seem like the temporary by-product of highly abnormal circumstances, but in fact it is an acceleration of the norm. In 2014, living with one’s parents became the most common living arrangement for Americans ages 18 to 34, finally overtaking living with a romantic partner. By 2018, about 25 million young adults in that age range were living at home, per a Pew analysis of data from the Census Bureau.

The Great Recession contributed significantly to that figure’s steady rise. According to an Atlantic analysis of Census Bureau data, the number of 25-to-34-year-olds living with their parents increased by nearly 1 million from 2006 to 2010. This “boomerang generation” of young people returned home during that period for many reasons. The economic ones probably got the most attention: In the late aughts, a cohort of young workers was trying to make its way in a bleak labor market while collectively shouldering an exceptionally large amount of student debt. Of course they’d end up living somewhere that didn’t charge them rent.

That suggests that, independent of the Great Recession, something broader has changed in how people embark on their adult lives. “More people are in education longer, and people marry and have their first child later than ever,” Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a psychology professor at Clark University, told me. “You put those two things together, and you have more people either remaining home or moving back home than was true 40 or 50 years ago.” Arnett came up with the label emerging adulthood for the open-ended developmental stage lasting roughly from age 18 to 29, and wrote a book of the same name.

Read more here.

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