Moving Back Home
 
Estimated Number of Printed Pages: 5
 
TOPICS COVERED: "Have you seen the paper? There's a new – slightly scandalous – phenomenon: adult children are moving back home. And the 'new' term for them is 'Boomerangs.'" The problem is that every part of those first sentences is wrong. Fewer adult children live at home now than did ten years ago. The "phenomenon" of moving back home isn't new: it happens when there's a economic downturn or housing shortage. Even the term "Boomerang" isn't new. Perhaps because Baby Boomers are looking forward to an empty nest, it's a sexy piece for a news feature. But of all the family issues covered lately, this one seems to be exceptionally mis-reported. So we've devoted a memo to it.

Once we started looking into this, we realized that moving back home really isn't the issue. The real issue these articles are asking is if moving home is another example of the alleged failure of young adults to grow up. So please take a look at our related page on "What Makes You a Grown-Up?" – especially the material about leaving home. Because you can't understand what it means to move home if you don't know what it took to leave in the first place.
 
MEMOS ON RELATED INFORMATION: What Makes You a Grown-up? (for information on leaving home)
 
Links to Sources for this material are available below. Please also see The Factbook Sources page for further information regarding Factbook sources and their availability.
 
 

PAGE INDEX:

 

HOW MANY WILL MOVE BACK?

WHAT WILL THE PARENTS SAY WHEN YOU DO?

 
 

THE MEDIA "TREND": YOUNG ADULTS ARE MOVING BACK HOME

MORE YOUNG ADULTS AREN'T LIVING AT HOME

MOVING HOME IS TIED TO THE ECONOMY

THERE ARE CULTURAL ISSUES PRESENT AS WELL

IT COULD BE A GOOD THING – RESTORATION OF EXTENDED FAMILIES?

 
 

HOW MANY WILL MOVE BACK?

 
 
Almost half
of Australian young people who have left their family home move back in for a time. 1.
 
 
 
27 percent
of British young adults return to live with their parents at least once. The primary reason for moving back is financial – but 17 percent said they just missed home. 2.
 
 
 
One in ten
of British young adults will move back home four times, before leaving home for good. 3.
 
 
 
15 percent
of American Baby Boomer parents surveyed have grown children who have returned home. 4.


 
And another 25 percent
of American Baby Boomer parents surveyed think it's likely that their adult children will move back in with them. 5.
 
 
 
So a combined 40 percent
of American Baby Boomers surveyed either think that it's likely their adult children will move back in with them, or they already have their adult children already living with them, while only 30 percent of them expect their own parents or in-laws will move in, or they are already there. 6.
 
 
 
 

HOW MANY WILL MOVE BACK?
THE MEDIA "TREND"

 
 
 

WHAT WILL THE PARENTS SAY WHEN YOU DO?

 
 
65 percent
of American Baby Boomer parents surveyed would "be happy" to help their grown children, if they financially needed to move back home. More than that, nearly one-fourth of the parents (23 percent) would feel “obligated” to help. And the kids should feel grateful it's that high – only 51 percent of the Boomers would be as happy to have their own parents or in-laws move in. 7.
 
 
 
Of those eager for their kids to leave again,
more than twice as many Boomer dads (33 percent) as mothers (14 percent) would be helping them pack. 8.

 

Do you think they require a security deposit?
28 percent of American Baby Boomers surveyed would charge their adult children rent for living at home. Older Boomers – aged 59 to 70 – are more likely to charge rent – 40 percent of them would do it. 9.
 
 
 
 

HOW MANY WILL MOVE BACK?
WHAT WILL THE PARENTS SAY WHEN YOU DO?

 
 
 

THE "MEDIA" TREND

 

MORE YOUNG ADULTS AREN'T LIVING AT HOME
MOVING HOME IS TIED TO THE ECONOMY
THERE ARE CULTURAL ISSUES PRESENT AS WELL
IT COULD BE A GOOD THING – RESTORATION OF EXTENDED FAMILIES?

 
 
 
THE TREND AS IDENTIFIED IN MASS MEDIA:

The trend is to see a new and or growing phenomenon of "boomerang kids," that is, adults who return home either after college and/or a few years out on their own.
 
 
 
HOW THEY GET IT WRONG:
 
 

MORE YOUNG ADULTS AREN'T LIVING AT HOME

 
 
 
Point 1: There are less adult children 25-34 living at home now than they were in 1996, and, while there are more 18-24 year-olds living at home than in previous decades, the recent figures are still less than other recent years.
 
In other words, this "rising phenomenon" is so not true, it's hard for us to believe it; at first, we thought just didn't have enough data to find the support for the phenomenon.
 
According to the U.S. Census, in 2003, 7.0 percent of women 25-34 years old were living with their parents or in college dorms. That's the lowest percentage of women at home since 1986, and lower than the same percentage it was in 1960, despite the fact that women were getting married much younger then. 10.
 
In 2003, 13.5 percent of men 25-34 were living with their parents or in college dorms. Men have varied from 13.1 to 13.9 percent since 1999. 11.
 
Yes, it's higher than 1970, and for men, higher than 1960, as well but in the past 20 years, the highest percentages for both sexes were actually in 1996, when 16 percent of men 25-34 and 9.0 percent of women 25-34 were living at home. And it's generally been going down – though there was with a bump up from 2001-2002 with the change in the Post-September 11 economy and environment. 12.
 
Of 18-24 year olds, in 2003, 54.8 percent of 18-24 year old males and 45.7 percent of females were living with their parents. And, yes, the articles are technically correct when they say that is a higher percentage than were in 1960, 1970, or 1980. But that's also misleading, because those weren't the years with the highest percentages of adult children at home. The highest percentages for 18-24 year old men to be living at home was more than 20 years ago – 1984 when 61.7 percent of them lived at home. For 18-24 year old women, 1999 was the highest year. That's more recent, but still, long enough ago that none of the women who were in that age group then, are still in it today. (49.0 percent). 13.
 
Here's a thought: the Census counts people who live in college dorms as still living at home. So we should expect the numbers of adult children at home to be higher than it was in earlier decades (and continue to grow), because more people are going to college – and living in dorms or staying home while they do it.
 
And we shouldn't be surprised when the newly educated, as of yet unemployed, move back home until they get settled.
 
What could possibly be the explanation for the media attention on boomerangs, then? Our guess is that the ones catching the eye of media are those who are moving home and were supposed to have it all, and haven't. They lost – or couldn't get – careers in the bust. Yes, it's another upper white collar / white driven media story again. Our support for this conclusion is a number of articles say it isn't just the economy being tough that's the reason the kids are moving home, but that the children were too spoiled when they were growing up to function on their own. It's unlikely that children in a lower class environment were spoiled to such an incapacitating amount. And it would seem like more of a disappointment / affront for those who were supposed to be successful as a given, to be struggling now.
 

MOVING HOME IS TIED TO THE ECONOMY

 
Point 2: It isn’t a new phenomenon anyway: it’s driven by economic cycles.
 
Depending on the article, it's supposedly a "new" or "growing" trend. It isn't new: it's cyclical. We've seen articles covering adult kids coming home in the recession years of the mid-1980s, 1989, 1992, 1999, 2000, and for the past three years consecutively. Basically, the articles about a new trend in "boomerangs" have appear every time there's been an economic downturn or recession for the past two decades.
 
Beyond the past twenty years, there was a severe housing shortage during and after WWII, so many adult children – including those with children of their own – moved home.
 
Even the terms "boomerangers" or "boomerang kids" aren't new. They have been around since at least 1987 – with the release of a book entitled Boomerang Kids: How to live with Adult Children Who Return Home. 14.
 
 
 

THERE ARE CULTURAL ISSUES PRESENT AS WELL

 
 
Point 3: Whether or not this is considered a problem is defined cultural context / expectations.
 
Of the articles about boomerang kids that do consider that the motivations for moving home are primarily economic, they don't consider racial, class, or cultural differences – which are just as much of an issue for returning home as they were for leaving home in the first place.
 
 
 

IT COULD BE A GOOD THING – RESTORATION OF EXTENDED FAMILIES?

 
 
Point 4: Perhaps this is a good thing: restoration of nuclear / extended families.
 
It's amazing to us, but unless it's an article critiquing the norm, the articles usually see this as a sign of a failure by the kid and/or parent. Couldn't it just as easily be seen as a sign of strength of family as a continuing viable entity, right? Couldn't it be a sign that the parents successfully forged close emotional ties with their children – and that that should be praised, rather than criticized?
 
Especially if those who return to their parents' homes have children of their own. That isn't a new phenomenon. That's a return to the older, once-familiar extended-family structure – where Grandma's watching the kids just like she's supposed to do. If economic realities in the urban industrialized society seemed to end the role of extended families in society, perhaps we should consider the possibility that an older, post-industrial society may move back into an era of extended family living.
_____________________________________________
 
 
1. Ceridwen Roberts, "Families in the UK: Policies, Challenges and Opportunities," General Monitoring Report, 2004, European Observatory on Family Matters (2004), p. 6 (citation omitted). Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_04_UK.pdf and Ceridwen Roberts, The Situation of Families in the UK, 1997-2002, European Observatory on Family Matters (2002), p. 6 (citation omitted). Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_02_uk_roberts_en.pdf
2. David De Vaus, "Australian Families," Handbook of World Families, Bert N. Adams and Jan Trost (eds). Sage Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 67-98 (2005), p. 73. Available through: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0761927638/qid=1123855404/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/104-0887680-4192712?v=glance&s=books&n=507846
3. Ceridwen Roberts, "Families in the UK: Policies, Challenges and Opportunities," General Monitoring Report, 2004, European Observatory on Family Matters (2004), p. 6 (citation omitted). Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_04_UK.pdf and Ceridwen Roberts, The Situation of Families in the UK, 1997-2002, European Observatory on Family Matters (2002), p. 6 (citation omitted). Archived at: http://europa.eu.int/comm/employment_social/eoss/downloads/gm_02_uk_roberts_en.pdf
4. _______, Del Webb 2004 Baby Boomer Survey, "Empty Nester Syndrome: When the Kids Go Away Will Boomers Play?' (2004). Accessed at http://www.pulte.com/pressroom/2004BabyBoomer/BabyBoomerDetailReport.pdf on August 15, 2005, and _______, Del Webb 2004 Baby Boomer Survey Press Release, "Baby Boomers Reclaim Independence in the Empty Nest But Del Webb Survey Shows ‘Boomerang’ Kids May Re-feather Their Future," Del Webb Website (June 29, 2004), p. 3. Accessed at http://www.pulte.com/pressroom/2004BabyBoomer/BabyBoomerNesters.pdf on August 15, 2005.
5. _______, Del Webb 2004 Baby Boomer Survey, "Empty Nester Syndrome: When the Kids Go Away Will Boomers Play?' (2004). Accessed at http://www.pulte.com/pressroom/2004BabyBoomer/BabyBoomerDetailReport.pdf on August 15, 2005, and _______, Del Webb 2004 Baby Boomer Survey Press Release, "Baby Boomers Reclaim Independence in the Empty Nest But Del Webb Survey Shows ‘Boomerang’ Kids May Re-feather Their Future," Del Webb Website (June 29, 2004), p. 3. Accessed at http://www.pulte.com/pressroom/2004BabyBoomer/BabyBoomerNesters.pdf on August 15, 2005. See also _______, Del Webb 2004 Baby Boomer Survey, "Fast Facts: Baby Boomers Statistics on Empty Nesting and Retiring," Del Webb Website (2004). Accessed at http://www.pulte.com/pressroom/2004BabyBoomer/BabyBoomerFastFacts.pdf on August 15, 2005.
6. _______, Del Webb 2004 Baby Boomer Survey, "Empty Nester Syndrome: When the Kids Go Away Will Boomers Play?' (2004), p. 13. Accessed at http://www.pulte.com/pressroom/2004BabyBoomer/BabyBoomerDetailReport.pdf on August 15, 2005.
7. _______, Del Webb 2004 Baby Boomer Survey, "Empty Nester Syndrome: When the Kids Go Away Will Boomers Play?' (2004), p. 13. Accessed at http://www.pulte.com/pressroom/2004BabyBoomer/BabyBoomerDetailReport.pdf on August 15, 2005.
8. _______, Del Webb 2004 Baby Boomer Survey, "Empty Nester Syndrome: When the Kids Go Away Will Boomers Play?' (2004). Accessed at http://www.pulte.com/pressroom/2004BabyBoomer/BabyBoomerDetailReport.pdf on August 15, 2005, and _______, Del Webb 2004 Baby Boomer Survey Press Release, "Baby Boomers Reclaim Independence in the Empty Nest But Del Webb Survey Shows ‘Boomerang’ Kids May Re-feather Their Future," Del Webb Website (June 29, 2004), p. 3. Accessed at http://www.pulte.com/pressroom/2004BabyBoomer/BabyBoomerNesters.pdf on August 15, 2005. See also _______, Del Webb 2004 Baby Boomer Survey, "Fast Facts: Baby Boomers Statistics on Empty Nesting and Retiring," Del Webb Website (2004). Accessed at http://www.pulte.com/pressroom/2004BabyBoomer/BabyBoomerFastFacts.pdf on August 15, 2005.
9. _______, Del Webb 2004 Baby Boomer Survey, "Empty Nester Syndrome: When the Kids Go Away Will Boomers Play?' (2004), p. 13. Accessed at http://www.pulte.com/pressroom/2004BabyBoomer/BabyBoomerDetailReport.pdf on August 15, 2005.
10. Now, these numbers, and the ones that follow, are those living at home – which would include not those just returning at home, but those who never left. But this is the same category of Census information being used by the "Boomerang" articles. And since we're using percentages, not absolute numbers, significant changes from year to year are probably indicative of the movement of that population in or out of the parents' home. ________, Table AD, "Young Adults Living At Home, 1960 to Present," U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC. (Internet Release date: September 15, 2004). Archived at: http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hh-fam/tabAD-1.pdf
11. ________, Table AD, "Young Adults Living At Home, 1960 to Present," U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC. (Internet Release date: September 15, 2004). Archived at: http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hh-fam/tabAD-1.pdf
12. ________, Table AD, "Young Adults Living At Home, 1960 to Present," U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC. (Internet Release date: September 15, 2004). Archived at: http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hh-fam/tabAD-1.pdf
13. ________, Table AD, "Young Adults Living At Home, 1960 to Present," U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC. (Internet Release date: September 15, 2004). Archived at: http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hh-fam/tabAD-1.pdf
14. Jean Davies Okimoto and Phyllis Jackson Stegall, Boomerang Kids: How to Live With Adult Children Who Return Home, Little Brown and Company (October, 1987). Link to Amazon information: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0316638102/qid=1117590599/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/102-6072404-0886547?v=glance&s=books&n=507846