We laugh about the term "adult children" as representative of a generation that failed to grow up. Now, new data underscores that the percentage of young adults living with their parents is not just common, but at its highest levels since after the Great Depression.

According to Pew, 33 percent of 25 – 29 year olds lives at home with their parents or grandparents. 1940 was the last time that so many young adults were living at home with parents and even then, only 32 percent of young people did so. 

The percentage of boomerang kids had declined for three decades until bottoming out in 1970 when it was as low as 12 percent. Then the trend reversed and rose steadily for the past almost five decades. Under the Obama administration, the share of boomerang young adults climbed one percentage point each year.  

Pew points to a few drivers:

  • Postponing marriage – The median age of Americans in their first marriage has risen steadily for decades while the overall the share of young adults either married or living with an unmarried partner has substantially fallen. Pew analysis projects that as many as one-in-four of today’s young adults may never marry. 

  • Bad economy – The Great Recession (and modest recovery) led to more young adults living at home. Young people may have enrolled in college, but weak job opportunities also led more young people to stay at home as a safety net.

  • Demographics – Increasing racial and ethnic diversity explains some of the increase in multigenerational livingAsian and Hispanic populations are more likely than whites to live in multigenerational family households. Foreign-born Americans (driven by Asians and Hispanics) are also more likely than native-born Americans to live with multiple generations of family.

Interestingly, the factors driving the boomerang phenomenon may be different for young women than for young men. 

Young men with jobs are less likely to be living at home with mom and dad, but the share of employed young men has fallen from its 1960 peak of 84 percent to 71 percent in 2014. 

Meanwhile, young women have seen employment and wages rise, but are still living at home. Pew suggests their delay of marriage may be due to economic challenges for young men.

An improving jobs market is welcome news for young who are starting to find work, so hopefully not only will they be able to move out on their own but also marry young women.