Be careful next time you accuse someone of living “in their mom’s basement,” because more likely than not they actually do still live with their parents. As of 2014, according to the Pew Research Center, 18-34 year-olds are more likely to be living with mom or dad than they are to be shacked up with a romantic partner. This is the first time since 1870 that kids have gotten so square.
The numbers break down like this: According to the 2014 figures, 31.6% of young adults are living with a partner or spouse in their own home, whereas 32.1% share a home with one or both parents. That’s not a huge difference on its own, but as part of a trend it is significant. Back in 1960, just before the time of free love and—it seems—even freer living arrangements, 62% of people in this age group had set up home with a partner of some kind.
The arrangements differ between boys and girls too, with young men more likely to still be living with parents. In fact, living with the folks has been the dominant arrangement for young males since 2009, whereas the (slight) majority of young women still move in with a partner. Another 14% of younger adults live on their own, in their own place.
So why are we hanging onto the apron-strings for so much longer? Overall, it’s a mixture of money and marriage. Or the lack of both. Young people are marrying later than in the past, and those that are marrying don’t necessarily take the traditional route of buying a starter home and moving in together. And economically, young people just aren’t earning as much as in the past. Pew’s figures show that employed youngsters are far more likely than the unemployed ones to move out of the family home.
Education also plays a part. While the trend is the same for both college-educated young adults, and for those who haven’t completed a bachelor’s degree or better, the actual numbers are quite different. Of non-college-educated folks, 36% live at home, versus 27% who have moved out. For those with a degree, 46% are in their own homes, compared to just 19% who still live with parents.
There are also ethnic and racial differences. Whereas the majority of young white adults has lived at home since 2009, most young black adults have been staying with their parents since 1980, Hispanics since 2011, and Native Americans/Alaskans since 2007. Most Asians and Pacific Islanders still live with a partner.
So while culture plays a big role in when kids fly the coop, the changes over time seem to be mostly down to motivation. Kids stay at home until they either a) fall in love or b) get a decent job. In some sense, then, not much has changed at all.