Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Why Are Millennials Living at Home?

Maybe it’s access to stocked fridges or the premium cable channels–whatever the reason, Millennials (roughly those born between 1983-1996) are shacking up with their folks at unprecedented rates. The above infographic from Good Magazine shows that in the US there were 21.6 million people–7% of overall population and 36% of Millennials—living with their folks in 2012; a 4% increase over just five years prior. The US is not alone. According to StatCan, 59.3% of 20-29 year old Canadians were living with their folks or one folk in 2011. Compare that to 11% in 1981!

Truth is Millennials aren’t staying at home because they’re watching Game of Thrones with tubs of Neapolitan ice cream. The reasons are economics and lifestyle choices. The days of graduating college into a verdant field of employment opportunity are, at least for the time being, over. 2/3 of all American graduates are leaving college with an average of $26K student loan debt. Then there’s low employment rates, which for Millennials stands around 15%–twice the national average. Of the live-at-home American Millennials, 45% reported being unemployed. The other 55% are not necessarily flush; real wages have consistently fallen for Millennials–a problem most acute with their cohort.

Then fewer Millennials are marrying. Only 20% of 18-29 years olds are married; compared to 59% in 1960 for that same group. Tellingly, 44% of Millennials think the institution obsolete according to Pew Research. Moving out to live with your partner just doesn’t have the urgency it might have once had.

What does this have to do with small space living?

We have read many comment boards for stories about micro-apartments, with the frequent comparisons to jail cells and cages. But what often gets missed amidst the fast-flying vitriol are demographic realities and changing lifestyles. Many people–and not just Millennials–don’t want to spend all their money on housing, either by choice or economic necessity; they might not want to marry; and their ideal living situation is more likely to be in the city than suburbs, particularly for Millennials.

There has been a big kerfuffle about micro-housing in the Pacific Northwest, but there has been less talk about why they’re so popular. There’s a huge demand for low-cost, centrally located housing, and having a rumpus room big enough for a ping-pong table is far less important than proximity to work and other amenities. While we can’t prove it, we suspect many of the micro-apartment dwellers are people who might otherwise be living at home. Moreover, as Derek Thompson of The Atlantic stated (perhaps a little optimistically), we are living in an era of cheap food and consumer goods relative to income.  Now it’s the time for housing prices to follow suit.

Of course there are many other factors contributing to the Millennial “failure to launch,” as many have put it. A stagnant economy, questionable returns on higher education, income inequality, a shrinking middle class and so forth. But in a certain way, reducing one of the biggest life expenses–housing and, to some extent, transportation–you can give more mobility for people who may never enjoy the salad days their folks did. And no, many Millennials might not be able afford a 1500 sq ft home for themselves (too often the only choice), which forces them to stay at home. But even with a modest income, they might be able to afford a great 350 sq ft apartment in the middle of the city, one that allows them to live car free and gives them access to the things that they find important.

  • I’m not sure that the article accurately answers the question that it poses in the title. I think the accurate answer to “Why Are Millennials Living at Home?” is “Because They Can.”

    I would posit that if one did not have the option of living at home, one would probably be more motivated to find a job, cut back on unnecessary expenses, and make it work somehow.

    I think the same can be said for why this generation is no longer interested in getting married. Because they can have sex, and lots of it, without “buying the cow”. Our grandparents got married so young because sex outside of marriage was taboo. They wanted to do it, so they got married. These days that is no longer required.

    I think if millennials were kicked out by their parents, you would find that they might be more willing to work two jobs for minimum wage because they have to.

    I’m not preaching or talking down saying one generation is better than the other. I’m just trying to answer the question accurately, if not politically correctly. I happen to like the direction we are headed. People should do what makes them happy. If they’re less productive, maybe that’s what the world needs.

    • AA2theron

      If not at their parents home, then a room in a home of another. Housing prices are redicilous, and so are the crap entry-level wages. For example, WI DNR Hydrogeologist entry-level position. $12/hr 20/per part time. That’s just one of many contract, temporary, or seasonal jobs.

      We also, see major issuses with “household” life and ask why would we put ourselves or another through that. Or maybe we were conditioned to view things differently.

      In the end, we’re both trying to paint with a broad brush. And that wont explain it.

  • Christopher Tilley

    It’s only comparatively recently (1960’s?) that young people left home before marriage.

    If you needed to leave home for work, you’d often end up living a boarding house where you had a bed / sitting room, shared bath and, probably, a landlady who provided breakfast and an evening meal.

    Essentially, a micro apartment.

    • David Friedlander

      yeah, i thought about that as well. prior to the 60s, leaving home more often than not meant getting married as the figure i mention suggests. based on anecdotal evidence, this usually happened relatively early in adult life, so effectively people moved out of the house young.

      boarding houses or women’s homes or efficiencies were the next step. a lot of them went south, acting as flop houses and one-step-ups from homelessness. it’s a shame, because they offered a valuable form of housing. we need something like them–and perhaps a step up or two–to really meet today’s, and tomorrow’s, housing needs imo.

  • RobMathews

    I can see this trend clearly with my younger cousins. Although I think they should be independent and not relying on their parents for housing, I like the idea that they’re not buying into the paradigm that says they need to have their own separate larger house out in the salad somewhere. Scarcity fosters creativity. Go millennials!

  • Bill R

    This is a good thing as most older people don’t sell and down size there house. which leaves a big house mostly unused and the Millennial s can pay a few bills to help out.

  • Dave Dale

    Millennials live at home because most were spoiled rotten. The baby boomers were not spoiled, we got yelled at by Mom or whipped by Dad if we misbehaved. Usually, we shared a room with a sibling, and a bath with the whole family. Our parents were in charge, and we wanted to leave home and be our own boss.

    Today, parents let their kids boss them around. They let them do whatever they want, and have never punished them in any real way. They borrowed to the max to give their kids everything, and caused the financial crises in the process. They bought houses they could not afford , giving kids private rooms and baths they didn’t need. They pressured colleges to build luxury dorms, so their kid could get a private room and ensuite. Colleges also built rock climbing walls and spa like gyms, as test scores and enrollment in difficult majors declined.

    Of course they are going to go home. Millennials were too good to get their hands dirty , so vitally NONE went into the skilled trades. With a lack of workers, quality of houses declined, but their prices soared. Millennials could not afford houses because their generation is too lazy to build them, and too un skilled to maintain them.
    Only the rich will be happy, with their nice apartment subsidized by Daddy, as they look for work as an artist, actor, film producer, or something else “fun” and “easy”.
    My advice- go back to nursing school and learn to be a welder, that liberal arts degree will get you know where and someone has to do the work around here.

    • Jill Joiner

      And each generation blames the young. Sad but not true. This generation is dealing with issues not seen by boomers or the WW2 generation. Also who is powering the tiny house/living movement and our tech millennials are. As for the skilled trades ie welding etc schools dropped those for budget and so called safety reasons.