For a generation of young adults facing the hurdles of a changing and insecure economy, there are also the barriers of rapidly rising urban housing costs and staggering loan debt (education debt alone, which has doubled since 2009, has caused a 35 percent drop in millennial homeownership, according to a New York Fed study). Add the hangover of the Great Recession and the idea of moving back home has gone from Exhibit A of this generation’s ostensible entitlement, laziness, and narcissism to something more accepted, nuanced, and less stigmatized than it was even a few years ago.
Last year, Pew research found, for the first time ever, living at home with parents had become the most common living situation for adults age 18 to 34. As census data suggests that young adults moving back home is more and more common, and many researchers believe it’s a trend that’s here to stay, it’s increasingly important to see the changes for what they represent, especially in terms of the real estate and housing markets, rather than as a sign that the kids simply aren’t alright.
As challenges with affordable housing and a lack of starter homes persist (inventory has plunged 40 percent since 2012), the millennial and Gen Y response—including living at home to save money and reduce debt in efforts to afford a home—can be seen as a strategic reaction to larger economic shifts.
“It’s not a reflection on the millennials; it’s a reflection of where we are as a society,” says Derrick Feldmann, a researcher who has conducted extensive studies on younger adults as part of the Millennial Impact Project.