Why are so many staying home?
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This past November, the Pew Research Center published an interesting report noting how younger people, the Millennial generation, are staying home as opposed to moving out. According to the study, the share of today’s 18 to 32 year-olds living with parents or relatives include:
Men – 42.8%
Women – 36.4%
What makes the study interesting is that Pew tracks the data back to 1940 where the numbers were fairly close to those of today:
Men – 47.5%
Women – 36.2%
Following 1940, the numbers dropped downwards hitting a low in the early 1960’s:
Men – 27%
Women – 20%
The numbers then begin to slowly rise with a sharp uptick in 2000 ending with the numbers as of 2014.
Why the U-turn in numbers? Two things come to mind, the state of our economy and our view of the institution of marriage. In 1940 the country was still embroiled with the Great Depression and about to enter WWII. Because of the economic hardships back then, it was expected you stay at home until you could support yourself. An individual’s earning power back then was much less than what we are familiar with today. Further, there were far fewer people attending college back then due to the exorbitant costs.
Today, we have a weak economy which helps to explain why so many Millennials are staying home. As in 1940, many are finding it difficult to find employment, particularly as Baby Boomers stay in the workforce and cannot afford to retire. Further, the Millennials are often saddled with considerable debt, thanks to expensive college loans. In other words, economics is having the same impact today as it did back in 1940.
In terms of marriage, women were expected to stay home in 1940 until they found a husband. This all changed over the next few decades as morality changed, resulting in a permissive society where premarital sex and cohabitation were considered acceptable. Today, our view of marriage is substantially different than 74 years ago, where we now fear commitment and the anxiety of divorce. As Pew points out, “In 2013, young women were half as likely to be married (30%) as young women in 1940 (62%). Census figures show that in 2014, the typical woman began her first marriage at age 27. In 1940, it was 21.5.”
When I entered the workforce in the mid 1970’s, the figures were at:
Men – 28%
Women – 23%
The economy was much stronger back then as the Greatest Generation was now in control of business. Frankly, it was an exciting time. Unlike the Millennials though, the Boomers wanted independence. It was not unusual for a person in their mid-to-late twenties to be living independently, whether in an apartment, condo or house, to be married, and have at least one child.
Today, there are questions about the Millennials staying at home; for example, will they become a burden; what should their responsibilities be; and should they be paying for staying at home? All are touchy subjects and ultimately based on the family unit and economics. In all instances, the Millennials should be expected to pull their weight in terms of duties and responsibilities around the house. As to economics, there are two schools of thought: that the Millennial should pay rent or should be allowed to save his/her money to pay off bills or finance their independence (move out)? In some cases, parents take the rent and put it in a separate bank account to assure the sibling cannot spend it. Others will use the rent to help pay for household bills, such as utilities and food. It ultimately depends on the relationship of the family members and economic needs. However, many experts claim allowing the offspring to stay home too long is detrimental to the siblings, who should be pushed out of the nest for their own good.
What I find most interesting about the Pew survey is how the numbers of today mirrored those of 1940. It proves “what goes around, comes around.”
Keep the Faith!