More Young Adults Opt to Stay With Parents As Housing Costs Soar, But There Are Consequences

More Young Adults Opt to Stay With Parents As Housing Costs Soar, But There Are Consequences
Cover Image Source: Young adults are returning to live with parents (representative image) | Photo by Blue Bird | Pexels

After graduating in 2021, Bethany Clark returned to her parents' home in Surrey, England, to focus on her studies to become a teacher. Even after securing her first teaching position the following year, she stayed with them, citing a need to save money. Now, 24, she intends to stay with them for another year or two, per Business Insider. This is a typical trend, with more adults in the UK and US choosing to live with their parents than in past years.

Gen Z opting to stay with parents (representative image) | Pexels | MART PRODUCTION
Gen Z opting to stay with parents (representative image) | Pexels | MART PRODUCTION

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The trend is closely related to the housing market. In 2022, Moody's reported that, for the first time, the average American renter was spending more than 30% of their income on rent, which the government defines as "rent-burdened." Even before the current market hikes, HotPads forecast in 2018 said that Gen Zers would pay $226,000 on rent over their lifetimes (adjusted for inflation), which is around $24,000 more than millennials and $77,000 more than baby boomers. According to a Bloomberg News and Harris Poll survey of 4,100 respondents conducted in 2023, 70% of 18- to 29-year-olds living with their parents stated they would be financially unstable if they moved out.

Image Source: Photo by Blue Bird | Pexels
Adults in their 20s are staying with their parents to save more (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Blue Bird

"I work close to where my family resides. It doesn't make sense to me to move nearby and pay ridiculously high rent just for a bit more room," Clark explained. Although she contributes a small amount of rent to her parents, she's able to save the majority of her income.

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Owning a home has become increasingly challenging for Gen Z, with the average age of first-time homebuyers approaching 36 and more than a third expressing worries about ever becoming homeowners. Gen Z, like millennials before them, is choosing to stay at home longer.

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Historically, during times of economic uncertainty, more young people prefer to live with their parents. For example, in 1940, during the end of the Great Depression, 48% of 18- to 29-year-olds lived with their parents, a figure that was not surpassed until 2020. Similarly, in the aftermath of the Great Recession in 2010, 44% of young adults remained at home, despite a difficult employment market when millennials joined the workforce.

Older generations frequently criticized millennials for living with their parents, blaming it on technology addiction and laziness. However, Gen Z has received less criticism for opting to live at home. For example, 24-year-old Amy Lewthwaite of southwest London has never left her family home and can save 30% of her income. 

Living with parents is regarded as a financially prudent decision in the face of rising housing expenses, with media outlets portraying it favorably. However, not everyone agrees; according to a Pew survey conducted in October 2021, more than one-third of Americans believe that young adults staying with their parents is bad for society. 

Image Source: Photo by Alex Green | Pexels
Many think that young adults staying with their parents is bad for society (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Alex Green 

Those who subsequently purchased a property after living with their parents appear to have had no meaningful advantage. A decade later, regardless of their previous living arrangements, both groups reported similar median property prices ranging from $200,000 to $210,000. However, there is an emotional toll to consider.

Sarah Obutor, for example, returned to her family home in Georgia after taking medical leave from college due to mental health difficulties. At 20, she faces the hardships of being stuck at home, where she is still treated as a child despite her age. While her two elder siblings, ages 27 and 29, still live at home, Obutor is keen to leave soon and find her place once she graduates. 

According to a 2017 study, those who returned to live with their parents suffered more depression symptoms. Another study in 2022 found that spending more time with family members could cause stress among people who have returned home. Maintaining personal boundaries and having personal space becomes difficult in multigenerational households, particularly in compact living situations.

Image Source: Photo by Blue Bird | Pexels
Gen Z and millennials are returning to live with their parents (representative image) | Pexels | Photo by Blue Bird

Many young adults consider independence to be important when they are growing up, yet research indicates that returning to live with their parents during the pandemic was viewed as a setback. Sarah Obutor expresses this sentiment, how living at home limits her participation in adult activities. As major milestones such as moving out and homeownership are postponed, Gen Zers may feel left behind, with 83% feeling pressured to fulfill these benchmarks, according to a 2022 Relate survey. This delay is changing notions of maturity, with marriage and family formation getting delayed, thus, reflecting the economic realities of rising housing costs.


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