How many times have you heard criticisms about adult Millennials living in their parents’ basements, or unable to find a “real” job, or not settling down, or just in general “delaying adulthood?”
First of all, I ask you: how many people in California do you know with a basement?
Second, do you remember that little blip called the Great Recession?
And, might I ask: what did you pay for rent when you were in your 20s to mid 30s?
There is plenty of research that shows Millennials are moving out, buying their own homes, marrying and having kids later in life. As a recent study released by the U.S. Census Bureau pointed out, these are all traditional milestones signifying adulthood.
Our generation is regularly lampooned for this tardiness. Several news outlets, including Fox News, have referred to us as the Peter Pan Generation. It is a topic that has been ongoing for at least five years, perhaps due in part to the 2012 article that ran in The Atlantic entitled, “Adulthood, Delayed: What Has the Recession Done to Millennials?”
I find it aggravating that, in the interim, all the jokes and complaints I regularly hear about Millennials being perpetual children have categorically ignored this essential question. As that article simplistically, yet astutely, pointed out: we did not choose to delay the things that come with adulthood. Challenging economic factors forced us to do so.
We patiently waited for the opportunity to seize it.
Look, I lived at home longer than I care to admit, but guess what? That’s because I was trying to be financially responsible. Do you think I wanted to be living with my parents well into my 20s? I love a good game of Scrabble, but c’mon.
In April, the U.S. Census Bureau released a report highlighting the differences between the young adult phase of life for Millennials (adults aged 18 to 34) and for those who were the same age in 1975. The objective of the report was to shed light on what some researchers have deemed a new life phase – a gap between childhood and traditional adulthood that no one has adequately defined yet.
Let’s start with living at home. Is your friend’s kid in the proverbial basement really just playing video games all day, drinking beer and wasting life?
“Of young people living in their parents’ home, 1 in 4 are idle, that is, they neither go to school nor work. This figure represents about 2.2 million 25- to 34-year-olds,” according to the Census report. More young people live in their parents’ home’s than any other living arrangement, according to the study.
Perhaps these factors, rather than laziness, might have something to do with so many Millennials still in their childhood homes:
• In 2013, more than 41% of young families owed student loan debt – up from 17% in 1989. The amount owed on student loans tripled in the same time period, according to the Census report.
• The Census also found that although most Americans believe the ideal age to finish education is 22, but only about half – 52% – of young people in America accomplish this.
In 2002, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) selected 15,000 high school sophomores to survey at intervals in 2004, 2006 and 2012. They are now in their early 30s. The 2012 results were released in early July, and among the findings were that, of the 84% who had enrolled in postsecondary college, 60% took out student loans. “On average, they borrowed a total of $30,000,” the report stated.
If you’re saddled with three times the loan debt as prior generations and/or haven’t even completed your education, how are you going to find a job good enough to pay the rent necessary to move out of your home?
Ah, rent. Everyone’s favorite topic of late.
Since finishing my education in 2012, I have woefully watched the price of a one bedroom apartment in Long Beach increase as I despondently scanned listings on Craigslist: $1,100, $1,200, $1,300, $1,400. . . . And each year I would think to myself, “Gee, I really should have just bitten the bullet and moved out last year. I don’t need things like cable or a phone or electricity or food. I’ll just spend more than half my paycheck on rent!”
Flash forward to 2016. I stumbled across a unit for rent in Belmont Heights off of 4th Street. It was an older building, but when the landlady walked me upstairs and opened the door to the unit I wanted to see, I was still shocked. There was one fluorescent light in the kitchen, one hanging bulb in the living room, exposed wood walls and ceilings (not in a cool, urban kind of way but in a “there is absolutely no insulation in this building” kind of way), and much of the same in the bathroom and bedroom. The appliances were filthy. As the property manager urged me to step out onto the wood balcony, she noted that termites tended to swarm the complex in the summer.
That unit was renting for $1,595.
It’s no secret that rents are rising; just read our Real Estate Quarterly. Couple that with evidence that underemployment and slow wage gains have remained an issue for Millennials who finished their education during the recession, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for delayed financial independence.
“Among the 2002 sophomore cohort, 35% of bachelor’s degree recipients and 29% of those with a master’s or higher degree reported that they currently or recently worked in a job requiring just a sub-baccalaureate credential,” the NCES study found.
That may have been in 2012, but recent BLS numbers show that 11.5% of Millennials are still underemployed. That’s almost triple the rate of the national average of 4.7% overall.
Do you think all this might have something to do with why plenty of us still live at home?
As for this putting off marriage business, the reasons really aren’t that mysterious. As the Census report noted, “What is clear is that most Americans believe young people should accomplish economic milestones before starting a family.”
But many of us haven’t.
So. Get off our backs. Geez.