Report: More millennials live at home than with spouse

An interesting study released by the US Census Bureau shows that about 1/3 of millennials 18-34 live at home or in a college dormitory. A quarter of 25-34 year olds living at home are either not employed or not going to school.

What's striking about these figures is the difference between young adults today and those in 1970. 


More 18- to-34-year-olds live with a parent than with a spouse, according to the report, The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975–2016 (pdf). That's a major shift from the 1970s, when young people were more than twice as likely to live with a spouse. Young adults today are also likelier to be enrolled in college or graduate school than their counterparts in the '70s. 

Most of those who live at home but neither work nor study have a high school diploma or less, and about a fifth have a child. Half are white, and the majority are male. About a quarter have a disability.

"Almost 9 in 10 young people who were living in their parents’ home a year ago are still living there today, making it the most stable living arrangement for young adults," the report said. "In 2005, the majority of young people lived independently in their own household (either alone, with a spouse, or an unmarried partner), which was the predominant living arrangement in 35 states. By 2015—just a decade later—only six states had a majority of young people living independently."   

Making sweeping generalizations that reflect badly on young adults today is probably unavoidable. But I think it more important to look at the underlying causes that are forcing young people to live with their parents.

It comes down to an economy that is not creating entry level jobs that pay a living wage. A college degree used to be a gateway to a white collar job in the 1970's. Those jobs not only paid enough for a young adult to live alone, but also put the worker on a management track. 

Even high school graduates with few skills could find employment at a factory or shop that paid a decent wage.Those jobs are all gone now, never to return. Employment has become specialized to the point that graduate school is almost a necessity for finding a job after college that would allow a young adult the independence to live by themselves.

An even more radical change is the refusal of young people to get married. This is a titanic cultural shift, the consequences of which are still not fully understood. Clearly, at least part of the reason for young adults to shy away from marriage is economics. But there is also far less emphasis placed on sex and marriage by young people today than there was in the 1970's. Most millennials don't see an upside to having a spouse and a family, and with housing prices what they are, even a two income family will have a hard time affording one.

I think there's a chance that, with a better economy, the number of young adults living with their parents will drop. But attitudes toward marriage may have been permanently altered. The priorities of young adults would have to change for most of them to once again, look to fall in love, marry, and raise a family.