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Why more and more Millennials aren’t leaving the nest

A new analysis of census data from the Pew Research Center finds that 36 percent of women between the ages of 18-34 are living at home with parents or relatives, while an earlier analysis found that 43 percent of men live in a similar arrangement. Judy Woodruff discusses the trend with Richard Fry, a senior economist with the Pew Research Center, and Gillian White of The Atlantic.

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    Parents and plenty of 20- and 30-somethings are well aware that many young adults move back home these days after they finish school.

    But a new analysis of census data out today from the Pew Research Center underlines the extent to which this is happening. It finds that 36 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 34 are living at home with parents or relatives. That's higher than at any time since 1940. An earlier analysis also found that nearly 43 percent of young men lived in a similar arrangement last year.

    Let's break down some of these findings with Richard Fry. He wrote today's analysis for Pew. And Gillian White, she is with "The Atlantic" and writes frequently about the lives of millennials.

    And we welcome you both to the program.

    So, Richard Fry, 36 percent, more than 36 percent, the biggest percentage we have seen since the Great Depression, what's behind this?

  • RICHARD FRY, Pew Research Center:

    I would then point to sort of three factors sort of through the long-run sweep.

    It's — the low point was about 1960, where about 24 percent. So it's been on the rise slowly, markedly picked up in the new century. Three factors. Number one, young adults are much less likely to be married than was the case 50, 60 years ago.

    When young couples get married, they don't live with their parents. So that delayed marriage has sort of reduced the incentive to leave the nest. Secondly, particularly among young women, many more of them are college students. College enrollment by young women has gone up about five-fold since 1960.

    College students, if you think about community college students, students going to local universities, much more likely to be living at home. And then, finally, particularly since the 1970s, young adults have become more racially and ethnically diverse as a result of increased immigration.

    What we know is that young adults from minority backgrounds are more likely to live with parents than white young adults. And so as young adults have become more diverse, more of them are living at home.


    Family patterns, more multigenerational households.

    And just quickly, for young men, some of the same reasons?


    Yes, yes. And they — young men have followed a very similar trend.


    Well, let me — before I turn to you, Gillian White, let me — we put out a call out on social media today asking young people, if you're living at home with family or relatives, tell us about the factors that led you to do this.

    And here are two quick comments, one from Facebook. Now, this comes from a woman named Janis Smith. She says: "My college-educated 30-year-old daughter lives at home with her parents because her public school salary is too low for her to fully support herself and her 1-year-old son."

    And then from Twitter, we got this comment from Steffanie Ybanez. She tweeted: "I'm 25, living at home, still in college, plan to stay at home after graduation to save money and pay off loans."

    So, Angela — I mean, so, Gillian — I'm sorry — do these sound like common reasons? You're hearing — you have been reporting on this generation for some time.

  • GILLIAN WHITE, The Atlantic:


    I think these two comments really illustrate a lot that we hear when it comes to finance and economics and why people are staying at home. The first piece is that wages have not seen a ton of growth, especially for young people, since the end of the recession. The economy is getting better, but wages haven't really skyrocketed.

    So, if you still feel like you might have a difficult time paying rent, paying utilities, paying for all these other things, it might feel safer to just go ahead and stay home.

    In addition to that, we know that student loan debt loads are rising, so a lot of people are saying, until I can get a handle on my finances, until I can pay down these debts, maybe I should just stay at home with my parents, where I can either pay a nominal amount or pay nothing and really catch up on my finances.


    And what about, Richard Fry, in your looking at the data, does it back this up? Because the economy, if you step back and look at the economics, it's supposed to have gotten better.



    I did a report about three months ago where I very much just sort of focused on recently, since the great recession, and what's been happening. And from 2007 to 2010, when the economy was sinking, more young adults lived at home. The expectation — and it was my expectation and others' expectations — that after 2010, as the job market started to improve and unemployment rates came down, that young adults would start leaving the nest.

    Young adult employment rates have come down. More of them do have jobs. There is even some evidence that their earnings are starting to rise, at least a little bit. And yet more of them are living at home than was the case five years ago.

    And so it's not altogether clear how much the job market and what's going on in the job market for young adults is driving this.


    So, Gillian White, in your reporting — and, again, you have been looking at this for some time — what do you think is going on here?


    I mean, I think it's two pieces.

    I think, even if things get better, I think people really have it in their heads, especially young people, that finances are a problem, that maybe jobs aren't as secure as they once were. So they are a little hesitant to maybe move out on their own in case something happens.

    I think, other than that — and this is anecdotal largely, but it could be that cultural norms have changed. A few years ago, a few decades ago, having a 30-year-old who lived at home might have raised some eyebrows, but now not as much, because we have that excuse of the great recession, we have that excuse of student loan debt, we have that excuse of the economy.


    And I did some reporting on millennials eight or nine years ago, and at that point, and this was the — this cohort, but younger, and what we found then is, they were closer to their parents than any young generation had been in history.

    So, are you picking up, Gillian, any of that in what you're…


    Yes, absolutely.

    I think the feeling of a cultural shift occurs both for millennials and for their boomer parents, where a lot of those parents aren't really trying to push them out. They are happy to have them home. They are happy to kind of feel young and have somebody around to teach them about new technology, and kids aren't feeling as alienated from their parents.

    So the idea of staying home with them doesn't feel as awful.


    Richard Fry, looking — I know how this is — it's hard to project into the future, but can you see any patterns in the past when something like this has happened? How long does it take before it shifts, or does it shift? I mean, could this be the way it's going to be?


    I think that there is some sense that this may be, in some ways, a new normal.

    And what I mean by that is, we know, for example, that the racial ethnic diversification is likely to continue, OK? We also know that the job market cannot get a whole lot better than sort of where we're at. I mean, the national unemployment rate is now down to 5 percent.

    So if you think it's all about the job market, it's not clear that the job market can get a whole lot better. No one really knows. But I do think that a return to the levels of the early '60s is probably not in the cards anytime soon.


    The new normal. All right, we are going to get used to this.

    Richard Fry, Gillian White, thank you.



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