Young people can’t seem to catch a break. In case you missed it, the number of multigenerational households has more than doubled since 1980, according to a recent Pew survey—and that increase is largely due to young adults, ages 25 to 34, living at home. By the numbers:
The percentages look like this:
Pundits have reacted to these numbers by lamenting the recession. According to Pew, “By 2012, roughly one-in-four of these young adults (23.6%) lived in multi-generational households, up from 18.7% in 2007 and 11% in 1980.” Not only are alarming numbers of youngsters living at home; they’re reversing a historical trend. Oldsters have been far more likely to live with their grown children, at least until 2012, when “22.7% of adults ages 85 and older lived in a multi-generational household, just shy of the 23.6% of adults ages 25 to 34 in the same situation.” Facing sky-high tuition rates, a job market in the doldrums, and an economy in transition, millennials aren’t enjoying enough economic security to start their own households.Though the recession has been unquestionably hard on millennials, we’d quibble with the conclusion that multigenerational living is in all cases a bad thing. A household that includes several generations does have its advantages. It can make eldercare a bit more manageable, can help young parents who would otherwise struggle to pay for childcare, and can strengthen family ties and help build up social capital. Young adults should have the economic freedom to strike out on their own, and we’re right to worry about the decline in economic opportunity that pushes people to live with their parents. But, as Megan McArdle has noted, a few years of living with one’s parents can make for fond memories, as they offer an opportunity for parents and their children to spend time together as adults.