Adult children living with mom and dad in search of a launching pad to adulthood

Published: Thursday, Aug. 2 2012 7:25 p.m. MDT

Matt and Milanne Carpenter pack to move out of their BYU housing while their baby, Ayla, sleeps Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2012, in Provo, Utah. They are moving in with Matt's parents who will help tend Ayla while they save money and finish their schooling.

Tom Smart, Deseret News

PROVO — Matthew Carpenter spent Wednesday afternoon wrapping dishes in paper, putting clothes in boxes and taking textbooks off of shelves in anticipation of the big move he and his wife Milanne are making Friday.

Together with their baby, the couple is moving back in with Mathew's parents, joining the growing group of young adults doing what it takes to launch into successful adulthood.

"We are moving home because we need a babysitter, and we couldn't afford anything in the area," Mathew, a senior at Brigham Young University, said.

"It will be at least until December or January, that's what the plan is," he said. "I graduate in December and it will depend on if I can get a job making enough money where we can afford some place."

New figures were released this week showing that more and more young adults are returning to live with their parents, a trend born from the period now formally referred to as the Great Recession, according to the US2010 research project, which examines changes in American society in this century.

"The recession hit young adults the hardest because they were often 'last hired, first fired,'" study author Zhenchao Qian, a professor and chairman of sociology at Ohio State University, said in a statement released this week with the study. "Many young adults find it comforting to return home, to double up with their parents when times are tough."

Moving away from home is a right of passage to adulthood in America, but for those of the "boomerang" generation, those hit hardest by the economic recession, getting out and staying out has become harder than ever.

Among the findings of this week's report:

• 24 percent of Young adults ages 20 to 34 lived with their parents in the 2007 to 2009 years of the Great Recession, compared to 17 percent who lived at home in 1980.

• The percentage of those under age 25 living at home jumped from 32 percent in 1980 to 43 percent during the recession.

• From 1980 to 2009 the percent of 25- to 29-year-olds living at home rose from 11 to 19 percent.

• Nearly 10 percent of 30- to 34-year-olds lived at home with their parents in 2009.

The figures also revealed that more young men were living at home with their parents in the 20-34 age group,  26 percent compared to 21 percent of women.

"Although census data do not distinguish between young adults who never left home from those who return home, it is plausible that many older young adults may have returned home after a stint of independent living, especially during the Great Recession," the study's authors said.

Mathew Carpenter's father, Mark Carpenter, said having his son and daughter-in-law move into his house is temporary and makes sense for their situation.

"It costs so much for them to put gas in the car, to drive up from Provo to Salt Lake to do those things that would make even living in less expensive housing as expensive," Mark Carpenter said.

Milanne will be doing her nursing clinical in Salt Lake County in the next few months as well, so having help caring for their child, Ayla allows both to finish their education. " It's not just housing prices, its the overall economic prices, it’s the gas prices that have a factor in that too," Mark Carpenter said.

He added that he will always want to help his children regardless of their ages.

"We also keep the perspective of we want to help on a temporary basis not a permanent basis," Mark Carpenter said. "We're helping provide them a more solid footing to launch off of as they get into their career, not encouraging or enabling a long-term reliance or dependency."

While statistics show that more young adults are taking a slower path into self-sufficiency, Barbara Ray and Richard Settersten, authors of the book "Not Quite Adults" said having a little more time at home can be a good thing.

"What we found in our book is that a slower path into adulthood is often a path into a more secure future," Ray said. "There are fewer jobs and it's hard to get started and rents are high, and college debt; they are graduating with some debt and they're not getting a job so it makes sense to move home," she said of the growing number of young people in their family homes.

She said young adults used to be able to take the first thing available and meander their way into a career. But with a slower economy and fewer jobs available having a parent to help makes a difference.

"What parents are providing by allowing their kids to move back home is a launching pad so you can make some smarter decisions because you're not feeling the financial pressure quite as much if you have to pay rent," Ray said. "This allows you to be a little more strategic and get a good step in the right direction with that first job."

Ray said that kids that tried to get out the door quickly are at higher risk of being in difficult financial situations.

"They leave home, maybe they are skipping education, they want to really just get a job because now they have to pay the rent and be responsible," she said. "That pretty much sends you right down the path to a low paid service sector type of job."

She said today's economy is much more competitive and young adults have to be strategic, and a stint with the parents could be the solution. 

The research released this week also found that metropolitan areas that were hit the hardest by the recent economic downturn also had proportionately more young adults living with parents.

Of the top 100 metropolitan areas the Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area in Connecticut had the highest percentage of young adults living with their parents at 34 percent. The Provo-Orem area was ranked 91, with 12 percent of young adults in the sample age group living at home.

Twitter: @FinleyJY

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