More Millennials living at home, despite end of recession

Published: Friday, Aug. 2 2013 6:45 p.m. MDT

Oregon State University graduate Josh Donahue, 23, stands at the edge of the Rogue River in his home town of Grants Pass, Ore., Tuesday, May 19, 2009. A new Pew study shows that the number of young adults — ages 18 to 31 — who live with their parents continues to increase. The share of young adults living with their parents represents the largest percentage to do so in at least four decades.

Jeff Barnard, AP

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STANSBURY PARK, Utah — Karlin Moody is 19 and still lives at home. She has a job as a pharmacy technician and commutes to classes at Salt Lake Community College. At night, she comes home and eats dinner with her family.

She doesn't think of it as mooching, she said. She buys her own groceries and pays for her car and gas. She's supporting herself while making sound financial decisions.

"I think mainly — and I like living at home, I love my family — but financially, it's nice to save money by not putting it into an apartment," Moody said.

More than a third of her Millennial demographic — ages 18-31 — also live at home with their parents, according to a Pew Research Center analysis released this week. Many of them aren't "mooching," as Moody would define it. A third to half of those living at home are also college students.

With about 36 percent of Millennials living at home, more young adults lived with their parents in 2012 than at any time in the previous four decades. That also represents the largest share of young adults in any single category of living arrangement today — those in the next largest group, representing 27 percent of Millennials, live with unrelated roommates or a cohabitating romantic partner. About 23 percent are married, and just 7 percent live alone.

Many of those figures have remained remarkably consistent since before the Great Recession. Just 8 percent of young adults lived alone in 1981, for example. About 31 percent of young adults lived with their parents that same year, but the biggest difference was the number of young adults living with a partner or roommate. In 1981, that group represented just 14 percent of young adults. The number of married couples has declined from 43 percent, nearly half of young adults, in 1981.

No recovery for Millennials

The state of the economy continues to impact young adults and is one of the biggest factors behind Millennials' choice to return home, said the report's author, Richard Fry. Even though the recession officially ended in 2009, young adults continue to struggle financially.

Much of it may be related to unemployment. Though 70 percent of young adults were employed in 2007, just 63 percent had jobs in 2012.

While unemployment is a concern, Fry said that as an economist he was especially concerned about the number of young adults who were consequently unable to form independent households. Those who do become independent and begin purchasing homes early are usually more able to build wealth for retirement, he said.

"At least so far, they are not forming independent households, which means they are not purchasing homes as early as they might have," Fry said. "One of the basic ideas in wealth gaining is the longer you hold it, the more you gain."

Delaying home ownership and other investments makes it much more difficult to build a nest egg, and buying a home is one of the primary ways middle class Americans can build wealth, he said.

Education, less debt

Another peculiarity of Millennials' financial behavior, Fry said, is that they shy away from taking out debt. So far they have proven far less likely to take on debt for cars, credit cards, even homes than previous generations. Students loans are the exception to that rule.

Many families, like the Moodys, have found a college education is more affordable without paying room and board for two. Karlin Moody's decision to live at home ultimately boiled down to a financial decision, she said. It was simply easier to pay for college if she commuted.