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The Kids Aren’t Alright: More Millennials Are Living with Their Parents

Michael Rainey

Pity the millennial, poster child of the Great Recession. A popular meme portrays the typical millennial as a basement-dwelling economic loser, forever condemned to live in the nether regions of his parent’s house. Unfortunately, that meme is not without basis. The recession seem to have hit millennials particularly hard, making it even more difficult for young people to find good jobs and to establish their own households.

In some respects, things are looking up for millennials. The U.S. job market is strengthening, making it easier to find work, and wages are starting to creep higher. The unemployment rate for young adults (ages 18 to 34, excluding full-time college students) has been heading lower since peaking near 12 percent in 2010; the latest unemployment reading for millennials is 7.7 percent.

However, there is one notable sticking point, and it echoes that basement-dwelling meme. Even though household formation rates have rebounded overall, millennials are still not moving out and establishing their own households like they used to. In fact, more millennials are living with parents or relatives than before the recession, according to new research from Pew.

In 2007, before the recession hit, 71 percent of millennials were living independently. In 2015, that number has fallen to 67 percent, with no sign of bottoming.

On the flip side, 22 percent of young adults were living in their parents’ homes in 2007. That number has risen to 26 percent this year.

The Pew report doesn’t look at why millennials are sticking so close to home. However, it does suggest that the relatively simple economic argument about the lack of good jobs no longer tells the whole story. Since the economy is recovering, however unevenly, there are likely other factors in play. One could be cultural: More young people simply enjoy living at home and are in no hurry to move out. Perhaps the U.S. is becoming more like Italy, where adult children often live at home until they marry.

That’s not to say that money plays no role in the trend, though. One big economic factor not addressed in the Pew report is pretty basic: rising rents. This graphic from Zillow makes it clear that rents have been soaring all over the country. More than $3,000 for a one bedroom in San Francisco? With those kind of numbers, living at home makes all the sense in the world.