Since the recession began, there’s been a huge jump in so-called “boomerang kids,” adults who move back in with their parents. Recent census data show that 5.9 million Americans between 25 and 34 have returned home. This affects individual families and society, and it raises questions about the value of a college degree as well as the state of our jobs crisis.
“Boomerangers” Not Just a Result Of Poor Economy
Though many recent college graduates have found it necessary to move back home due to a combination of student loans and difficulty finding a job, experts say this trend started anew around 2004, before the start of the recession. Linda Gordon theorizes that part of the explanation for the trend is that this generation of youth are less sure of career paths, get married later, and generally delay some traditional rights of passage that we have used to mark adulthood. “Home is comfortable, and there is a bit of a lack of generation gap between their parents. They like their parents,” Gordon said.
The Economy’s Role
The sociological factors Gordon cites aside, advice columnist Carolyn Hax said the people she’s hearing from are the “failure to launch” youths for whom the economy has no place right now. “A lot of them are washing up at home to the great dismay and distress of their parents,” Hax said, citing substance abuse and other social problems, too. Young people with these kinds of problems who might have been able to get by on their own in better economic times aren’t making it now, and are looking to home for a safe haven, Hax said.
The Upsides To Moving Back In
Despite the financial or social hardships that drive some to move back home, many adult children find some positive sides to living with their parents again. “If they are piling up experience in unpaid internships or trying their wings in jobs that have some prospect for a happy future, it creates the opportunity for parents to be parents without all the surveillance obligations they had when their kids were teenagers,” Kathleen Newman said. One big downside for parents, though, is that those who were looking forward to being “empty-nesters” find themselves on a different trajectory with adult children unexpectedly back in the house.
One caller shared his story of being a 64 year-old man who had lost his job, his house, and his wife. He recently moved back in with his 84 year-old mother. “If it wasn’t for my mom taking me in, who knows where I’d be,” the caller said. “I’d be in a homeless shelter or sleeping under a bridge,” he said. Newman replied that the listener’s story highlights one of the “horrendous tolls” of the prolonged recession – the fragility of Americans across the board and in every age group. In poorer families who may have less space than wealthier ones, tensions and conditions can be much worse. “How families adapt to this depends a lot on the resources that they have on the table,” Newman said.
You can read the full transcript here.