Great Recession Caused More Young Adults to Live with Parents

Zhenchao Qian, professor and chair, Department of Sociology, is author of a new research brief finding that the number of young adults ages 20 to 34 who lived with their parents jumped from 17 percent in 1980 to 24 percent during the "Great Recession," 2007-09.  The rise was sharpest among those under 25, a new high of 43 percent vs. 32 percent in 1980, but it increased largely across the board. Even among 30- to 34-year-olds, nearly one in 10 lived with parents.

Accordiing to Qian, the recession hit young adults the hardest because they were often "last hired, first fired." ‚ÄúThis recession has had tremendous effects that previous smaller recessions did not," said Qian. "The surprise mostly is that it's increasing for every group."

The only segment not affected: young adults with graduate degrees. The share living with parents has stayed at 8 percent since 1980.

Qian's brief, US2010 Project: During the Great Recession, More Young Adults Lived with Parents [pdf], is based on census data and shows that the trend of young adults staying with their parents occurred across the U.S. but was strongest in large metropolitan areas with both high living costs and high unemployment. The top 10 metropolitan areas on his ranking included New York, Miami, Honolulu, and El Paso, Texas. Columbus had one of the lowest percent of young adults aged 25-29 living with parents between 2007-2009 (11 percent).

Significantly, Qian said, the top 10 areas also tend to have large Latino, Asian, or other racial or ethnic communities in which living with parents into adulthood is more common than among whites, although the numbers for whites also jumped during the recession. Traditions of extended-family living among Latinos, intergenerational obligations among Asians, and strong kinship ties for African Americans may explain why many of these young adults are staying or returning home, said Qian. Delays in the age of marriage also played a role, he said.

Young men were much more likely than young women to live with their parents during the recession, Qian said. Among men from 20 to 34, 26 percent had lived at home in recent years, compared with 21 percent of women the same age, the study found. Among the reasons may be that men on average are two years older than women when they marry and that women were more likely than men to double up with relatives other than parents, he said.

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