Cultural shifts and economic factors are keeping millennial women home in numbers not seen since 1940, an analysis of Census Bureau data suggests
The share of young women living at home with their parents or other relatives has reached its highest level since the statistics were first gathered, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data.
Cultural shifts such as people marrying later, rising college attendance and a more diverse population, and economic factors such as student debt and high rents, are keeping millennial women at home longer, said Richard Fry, the Pew Research Center economist who did the analysis.
According to Fry’s analysis, 36.4 percent of women ages 18 to 34 lived with their family in 2014, topping the previous peak, 36.2 percent in 1940.
While young men, he found, were still more likely to remain at home than young women, at 42.8 percent, that share was not as high as in 1940, when 47.5 percent lived with the family.
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“Some of what’s happening is probably economics, because the Great Recession really hit young adults hard,” Fry said. “But I’m still struggling with the economic explanation, since the labor market for young adults has improved in the last five years, and yet the percentage living with their family is still going up. It seems to be somewhat decoupled from economics.”
Carlotta Mohamed, 24, a student at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism who lives with her parents, said that because several of her friends, male and female, also lived at home, she did not think her situation was that unusual. But she does look forward to living independently soon.
“It would be nice to have my own space, but my parents are very supportive,” said Mohamed, adding that she had $40,000 in student debt. “I don’t pay any rent, but I do help out with cooking and cleaning. I hope I’ll be out of there when I’m 27 or 28. My mom stays awake until I come home.”
Rachel Franchi-Pereira, 21, a senior at Fordham, said she liked living at home, seeing it as an in-between phase, allowing her to stay in her comfort zone until she had a job and was ready to strike out on her own.
“In my head, I see myself as an adult,” she said, “but I don’t know what kind of job I really want, I don’t know how to get an apartment, I don’t have to buy the toilet paper, and that’s what being adult is,” she said.
Through the 1940s and 1950s, the share of both sexes staying at home dropped, and by 1960, only about 20 percent of women and 30 percent of men were living with their parents or other relatives. The numbers have been rising since, with a sharper uptick since 2000.
Historically, Fry said, most women lived with their parents until they married, and few went to college. Now, more than a quarter of young women attend college — and college students, including those who enroll part time at community college, are significantly more likely to live with their family than other young adults.
Since 1940, the United States has become far more diverse — and non-Hispanic whites, an ever smaller part of the population, are the least likely to stay at home through young adulthood, according to the research.
Men and women alike are marrying later — with men, on average, about two years older than their brides — and it is often marriage that signals their departure from the parental nest.
Rents in some cities have become so high as to be unmanageable for many young adults, especially those with heavy student debt.
“I don’t have any research to back it up, but one does hear that the social acceptance of living with your parents has increased,” Fry said.