A growing trend in American households is the rise of the Boomerang generation, young adults who after a brief period of living on their own return home (or “boomerang”) to once again, live with their parents. A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center cites a rise of 2.6 million more multi-generational American households within a one-year period, from 2007 to 2008 and identifies young adults (between the ages of 25 to 34) as most responsible for this trend. The numbers here have almost doubled over the past 20 years, with just 11 percent of young adults returning home in 1980 compared to 20 percent in 2008. Clearly, more and more young adults are reentering the nest. So what’s driving this trend?
The Effect of the Current Economic Context on the Boomerang Trend
The rise of the Boomerang generation certainly intersects with the current economic downturn. High rates of layoffs and unemployment, as well as other economic instabilities, such as the rising costs of gas and food make it increasingly difficult for young people just starting out to afford to live on their own. In fact, the Pew Center’s research shows a significant jump in young adults returning to the family nest around the time of the crisis, from 18.7 percent in 2007 to 19.8 percent in 2008. Pew connects this with an astronomical unemployment rate of 37 percent for young adults ages 18-29 in 2009.
In fact, the option to return home in one’s twenties is becoming more and more accepted by the younger set. CNNMoney cites a recent poll that reveals that 85 percent of college graduates actually plan to move back home after graduation. For those having difficulty finding employment, living at home offers them an opportunity to take on an unpaid internship to further their career until the job market opens up, or even pursue further schooling. And even if Boomerang kids work, moving back home is often a smart move financially, as it gives them a chance to pay back some of the debt they often accumulated in college.
The Effect of Race and Ethnicity on the Boomerang Trend
One factor also cited by Pew as driving this trend is the recent wave of immigration since the 1970s, composed mostly of Latin American and Asian groups. This introduces a cultural aspect to the equation, as multi-generational households (whether this includes older adults or youths) are much more widely accepted within these groups. This type of household configuration is common among African-Americans, but the cultural origins are unclear.
Well before the current recession, studies showed that in general, a significantly higher number of Hispanic, Asian, and African groups lived in extended households than whites. A study published in 1989 focused on unmarried, childless adults over the age of 25 and found that approximately 50 percent of both blacks and Hispanics lived with their family of origin, compared to whites at 35 percent. Similarly, another study (published in 1990) looked at unmarried mothers between the ages of 19 and 26 in 1984, determining that 45 percent of blacks in this sub-group lived with their parents in comparison to 22 percent of whites.
However, a 2002 analysis by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University delivered a somewhat different conclusion. “Our models through different datasets prove[d] that racial difference may not be as large as previous studies claimed. . . . In many of the cases, our models attribute[d] the detectable racial effects to some compound influence of other factors such as economic, demographic, and geographic variations.” Essentially, what they found is that while race and ethnicity may be a factor, it’s not necessarily the driving force behind these statistics.
Clearly, the impetus behind a young adult moving back into the family home is not singular in focus, but rather emerges from complicated intersections of economy, finances, and cultural beliefs. However, incidents of teen pregnancy, drug use, and other definable issues such as cost of living within a particular geographical area, and the need for additional schooling for a desired career track also factor into the picture. In fact, in its analysis, the Pew Research Center also connects the older average median age at which young people marry as perhaps determining the longer-term shift, as this leaves a greater gap between college graduation and the establishment of a marital home. Regardless, the decision of young adults to return to the family home in their twenties has become a common one, driving an entire new generation of parents and children to learn to coexist outside of the parent-child construct under which they initially lived.
Dickler, Jessica. 2010. “Boomerang Kids: 85 percent of College Grads Move Home.” CNNMoney.com. November 15. http://money.cnn.com/2010/10/14/pf/boomerang_kids_move_home/index.htm.
Di, Zhu Xiao, Yi Yang, and Xiaodong Liu. 2002. “Young American Adults Living in Parental Homes. Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/publications/markets/di_W02-3.pdf.
Ludden, Jennifer. 2010. “Boomerang Kids Drive Rise of Extended Family Living.” NPR. March 18. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124787436.
Pew Social Trends Staff. 2010 “The Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household.” Pew Research Center. March 18. http://pewsocialtrends.org/2010/03/18/the-return-of-the-multi-generation...