Grown Kids Still Stuck at Home? Change Is on the Horizon

When the pandemic hit last year, young adults moved back in with their parents in a big way. Now the share of 18-to-29-year-olds living with parents and grandparents is back about where it was before Covid-19 arrived.

Still, you might think that 42.8% of 18-to-29-year-olds living in their childhood bedrooms or maybe the basement — which is the September percentage estimated by University of Maryland sociology professor Philip N. Cohen from Census Bureau data — sounds like a lot. And yes, by the standards of the six decades preceding the Great Recession, it really is.

That the percentage has risen every decade since the 1960s is an indication that some long-run social forces have been at work. More young adults are attending college and thus delaying getting their own permanent lodgings, and in general the growing-up process has become more drawn-out. Immigrant families, of whom there are far more in the U.S. now than in 1960 and 1970, are more likely to embrace multi-generational living.

Still, the big jump from 2000 to 2010 had some obvious short-term economic causes too. In the latter part of that decade, huge numbers of Americans were entering adulthood amid the worst economic environment in 75 years, and they couldn’t afford to move out on their own. Things didn’t get much better in the 2010s as the job market slowly improved but inadequate housing supply in job-rich places plus tightened mortgage-lending standards kept making it hard for young adults to get their own places.

Another way to track this phenomenon is simply by counting how many households there are.