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Life Choices: Failure to Launch

August 2, 2013

Right on the heels of especially tepid reports on both July joblessness and the second quarter’s weaksauce economic growth, here’s still more discouraging news about the newly perpetual state of near-stagnation in which our economy is currently languishing. According to a new study from Pew Research, a rising portion of young adults are still living in their parents’ homes instead of moving out into apartments or homes of their own, with that number reaching a new record in 2012:

My first comment goes along the lines of financial responsibility.  It’s never smart to do something that you can’t afford, and choosing a housing situation that eats into whatever savings you have is a bad idea.  As such, the concept of living in a secure household is probably an idea that quite a few people would consider.  That said, I doubt that a lot of these people are doing it because they’re purely being financially responsible.

One of the factors listed was the fact that kids were in college and staying at home.  I did that for a couple semesters… mostly because I had a job that was closer to home than work, so I stayed in the bedroom.  Once I started to take classes while I was working, I decided to stay at school instead, even if the commute was rougher.  Of course, I also bought a car with my parents help and paid it off in a year because that was the right thing to do…

But to my point… is this problem as much one of the parents’ causing as the kids? Even as kids don’t appear to be growing up as fast, the parents sometimes seem to be enabling that.  Far from the 18th birthday present of “luggage,” it appears that many families don’t want to break up the party and want the kids to stay home.  Maybe it’s a fear of failure on the parents’ part as much on the kid’s, but it’s not helping anyone’s self-confidence.

I did note this in the summary as well:

Looking at longer term trends, the analysis finds that the share of young adults living in their parents’ home was relatively constant from 1968 (the earliest comparable data available) to 2007, at about 32%. However, other household arrangements of young adults changed dramatically during this period. For example, the share who were married and living with a spouse fell from 56% in 1968 to 27% in 2007. And the share who were living with a roommate or child or were cohabiting with a partner increased nearly fivefold (from 5.5% to 26%).

So it’s only recently going up, even as the other factors were changing.  The trends are recent, so it’ll be interesting to see if they keep going in the next few years, or stabilize.

I give credit to the parents who ask the kids to make wise choices.  I have some friends who checked bank statements for their kids and wouldn’t encourage them to move out until they saw six months of living expenses ready to go, and then they found ways to help the kids move out, rather than holding them back.  I hope more parents think like this, and remember that growth only happened in their own lives when they started on their own.

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