Over Half of U.S. Young Adults Now Live With Their Parents: What Does This Mean For The Future? | Nathan Wilson

It has been revealed recently by the Pew Research Centre that for the first time since the 1960’s more young adults have been living with their parents in the United States, than not. Following this, 2020 was the first time since records began that most young adults (in this research these ages being: 19-29) were now living with their parents.

Besides the obvious shock that the Coronavirus Pandemic has played on young people around the world, I have decided to delve deeper into the possible explanations towards this continuing trend and the potential outcomes for the future.

Two possible explanations for why this has happened is due to the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) and the Coronavirus pandemic (As previously mentioned). This being that during times of economic hardship young adults will take refuge with their parents rather than potentially ‘facing a storm alone’ economically speaking. Although, this retreat into safer environments is not unique to this situation or within economic history. The reason for such, is because as young adults are less established (when compared to their respective parents’ generation) and therefore less financially secure. Evidence that supports this claims stems from the last time young adults were living at such rates (1930’s and 1940’s) were during similar circumstances. The ‘Great Depression’ was such a catalyst for similar actions to take place that similar events like the GFC would make perfect sense why we are seeing such events replicated. Although, this answer feels too much like Zhou Enlai’s response when asked about the effects of the French Revolution. This being that “It is too soon to tell”.

This is because the true effects of the GFC are still being played out into the present tense, like a rock dropped into a pond, we are just viewing the ripples of these major events after the fact. After which we are in the immediate pathway of all relating ripples.

A second and more direct reason for such actions comes from the coronavirus pandemic and the economic downturn that it has brought with itself. Further, economic instability has given young adults the means/ reasons for returning to much safer and securing forms of living as previously demonstrated. As rent was not being paid and the less secure jobs were being removed, it would only conclude that an event like this would eventually happen. Though often attributed to the fields of Astrophysics and Thermodynamics, Murphy’s Law still adequately fills the logic for this gap.

This being that, “Murphy’s law or the fourth law of thermodynamics” (actually there were only three last I heard) which states that, “If anything can go wrong, it will.”

Therefore, a coronavirus-like event would eventually appear and cause this kind of ‘home-retreating’ that we have seen before. As such, the GFC may have set the stage for the ball to ‘start rolling’ and then reach terminal velocity when the coronavirus pandemic reached its peak. All of these can be valid explanations to why this has happened. However, there are a few possible factors that could explain the increase in young adults living with their parents, that have yet to be explored by researchers.

As a result, one possible factor for this present situation could be because of a failing job market, as a possible factor due to education. This being that the younger generations are the most educated in world history. However, the fact University degrees have become more commonplace suggests that unfortunately it does not present a clear path into the job market (or success) unlike previous generations. What this results in is an over inflation of education over skills and work experience, which has eventually trickled down into the real world. Thomas Sowell once quipped that ‘university degrees are like standing up at baseball games’. The crux of the idea is that having a university degree was a way of standing up and out against the crowd, and yet if everyone stands up everyone is still in the same place regarding watch the ball game.

A second key factor is that of marriage. According to the New York Times in 2018, people in America get married almost a decade later than previous generations. From this, many young adults are now staying with their parents until they get married. It is worth stating that young adults are getting married at far lower rates than that of the past. Both factors, I would argue, are key in understanding the central problem behind these events and what this means for the future.

As more and more young people stay home, this will have adverse effects on the housing market, job market and more specific microeconomic markets. As more young adults stay home, less and less spending will be taken into these emerging markets. One could counter this point by suggesting that the need for traditional workplaces has suffered from coronavirus restrictions and the increased popularity of online (remote) working. Therefore, this ‘shift’ could be positive in the short term but could create much worse long-term effects (depression, loneliness, and loss in productivity).

The rise of loneliness as a silent pandemic demonstrates this perfectly, with increasing rates amongst younger generations than before, documented in the UK. This is according to a recent report by the ONS, found here. Add that with decreasing life satisfaction and young people refusing to leave home later and later, we see the production of a recipe for a potential social nightmare.

This will present some of the biggest problems culturally onto said societies. Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff argued in ‘The Coddling of the American Mind‘, that this could be a sign of society becoming weaker and that young people are moving towards what Haidt calls ‘safetyism’. This could be the first sign that society has started to set itself up to fail, with more and young people refusing to move out and get married. With more young people at home since World War Two, the social outcomes remain unknown yet silently frightening from a public policy standpoint.

Overall, what this shows is that if this trend continues, society could be moving towards further entrenchment into young people living at home and avoiding marriage. The true implications of this remain unknown and complex but what is clear, is that as the Coronavirus Pandemic reaches its conclusion the true effects of living at home and of avoiding marriage will no doubt damage future generations. In addition to this, just like Zhou Enlai stated in the 1970s, the effects of something are truly too soon to tell. In a follow up to this article, I will examine how nations like Japan have sort to deal with their own societal problems, most notably its loneliness epidemic, as shown through this Asia-Nikkei article about Japan. The Japanese remain a unique nation, both culturally and socially and as a result, Japan’s responses to both its population decline and its loneliness epidemics remain up for discussion and debate. This will be important to analyze and see if the Conservatives in the Western World take notice or even learn from what is happening across the world.

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