The Class of 2008, born during the historic bull market that closed the past century, reached a dubious distinction last year: More than a million of the college graduates have gone back home.
The number of 26-year-olds living with parents has jumped almost 46 percent since 2007, according to Census Bureau data compiled by the University of Minnesota Population Center. Last year, the number of 18- to 30-year-olds living with their parents grew to 20.7 million, a 3.9 percent gain from 2010.
The figures underscore the difficulty that millions of young people have had in finding jobs and starting careers in the U.S. following the longest recession since the Great Depression. About a quarter of American adults between the ages of 18 and 30 now live with parents, while intergenerational households have reached the highest level in more than 50 years.
“There’s been a shift in attitude,” said Kate Brooks, the career services director at the University of Texas College of Liberal Arts. “Parents are more accepting; some welcome it.”
Reflecting on the changing circumstances among 20-something adults, many of whom backed Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan suggested some may have second thoughts this year. Not all young adults have “to live out their twenties in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life,” he said at his party’s convention in Florida last month.
The number of unemployed Americans has surged 60 percent to about 12.5 million from 7.82 million in the first quarter of 2008, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The nation’s jobless rate, which peaked at 10 percent in October 2009, was 8.1 percent in August, compared with 5.1 percent in March 2008.
Kevin Sanchez graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2008 with a bachelors degree in journalism and no job. He moved back home to Edinburg, a South Texas city in the nation’s poorest metro area, centered on neighboring McAllen. He joined his parents, a grandmother and a younger sister.
After a month, his parents insisted that he get a job. Now Sanchez, 26, teaches speech communication at a middle school. During the past four years, he also earned a master’s degree in finance at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg.
Sanchez supplements his teaching salary by freelancing for the local CBS Corp. television affiliate and is also helping with marketing for a relative’s home health-care business.
Sanchez doesn’t pay any rent, although his father, a pharmacist, persuaded him to buy a house lot and to start saving. He also owns a truck and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
“He lives here and sleeps here and eats here when it’s convenient,” said his mother, Velva. “He comes and goes as he pleases.”
For Andrew Schrage, a 2008 Brown University graduate, returning to his parents’ Boston home was a matter of choice, not necessity. The 26-year-old co-owner of Moneycrashers.com, a Denver-based personal-finance website, was an adolescent when the bursting dot-com bubble ended an 18-year bull market marked by an almost 15-fold gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.
“I enjoy spending time with my parents and want to do so as much as possible, especially while they are younger,” Schrage said by e-mail. He helps them with household bills and chores.
“I don’t have as much privacy as I’d like,” Schrage said on the downside of his living arrangements. “My parents like to make comments about lots of ‘little things,’ which can really get on my nerves.”
About a third of adults 18 to 34 who live with a parent said the move has been good for the relationship, according to a March report by the Pew Research Center’s Social and Demographic Trends Project in Washington. Only 18 percent said the move had caused relationships with their parents to deteriorate.
More than 60 percent of adults 25 to 34 know friends or family members who have moved back with their parents in the past few years because of economic conditions, according to the Pew report. It cited a December telephone poll of 2,048 adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.
The share of Americans living in multigenerational households reached the highest level since the 1950s, after rising significantly over the past five years, according to Pew.
“Young adults have had record-high unemployment rates,” said Kim Parker, the Pew study’s author. “So many of them have either moved back home, or have never left.”
The proportion of all age groups between 18 and 30 years old living with a parent rose between 2007 and 2011, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. The increases ranged from 3.6 percent for 19-year-olds to almost 48 percent for 26-year-olds. The ranks of 23- and 28-year-olds living with parents rose more than 25 percent during the five-year period.
Even so, there may be hope next year for Sanchez. The percentage of young adults living with their parents fell over the year for four age groups, led by an almost 16 percent drop among 27-year-olds.
“I’m 26 years old and haven’t grown up yet,” Sanchez said. “I’ve become so comfortable with the lifestyle I’ve been living.”
-- Editors: Ted Bunker, Pete Young.