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Majority of Young American Adults Now Live With Parents

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More 18- to 29-year-old American adults are living with their parents today than at the height of the Great Depression, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of monthly Census Bureau data.

Fifty-two percent of young adults resided with one or both of their parents in July, up from 47% in February. Their numbers grew to 26.6 million, an increase of 2.6 million from February.

These increases came among all major racial and ethnic groups, men and women, and metropolitan and rural residents, as well as in all four main census regions.

Growth was sharpest for white young adults and for those 18 to 24. Most people in this youngest age group already lived with their parents, but the share grew to 71% in July from 63% in February.

In the 1940 census at the end of the Depression, 48% of young adults lived with their parents. Pew noted that the peak may have been higher during the worst of the downturn in the 1930s, but lack of data makes that uncertain.

Nine percent of young adults reported that they had relocated either temporarily or permanently because of the outbreak, and 10% said somebody had moved into their household.

Among all adults who had moved because of the coronavirus, 23% said the most important reason was because their college campus had closed, and 18% reported that job loss or other financial reasons had pushed them to do so.

The Pew analysis showed that the youngest adults were more likely than other age groups to have lost their jobs or taken a pay cut because of the pandemic and consequent economic downturn. And the share of those in the 16-to-24 age group increased from 11% in February to 28% in June.

Pew noted that in these numbers, unmarried students who reside in on-campus college dorms were counted as living in their family home. Any increase in young adults living with parents this year would not be due to the pandemic-related closure of college dorms in the spring.

But it further noted that there generally is a seasonal pattern to young adults living with their parents, with the share tending to rise slightly in the summer, after college final exams. In 2019, for example, the share living with their parents rose by less than two percentage points in July compared with February, whereas this year, the increase was more than five points.

In a blog post, the Center of Retirement Research at Boston College pointed out that the current downturn was the second in a decade for baby boomers, who have suffered a major setback just as they are trying to square away their finances for retirement.

It said young adults, too, face long-term consequences from losing a job and financial independence. Even though they have several decades to repair any financial damage, they are vulnerable because they are trying to establish their careers.

A coronavirus-related interruption in their progress could affect their jobs and salary levels over the future course of their work lives.

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