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Young people aren’t troubled to live at home in tough times, study finds

By Rebecca Trounson, Los Angeles Times –

LOS ANGELES — If you once found the thought of living with your parents into your late 20s or even your 30s a little embarrassing, you no longer have reason to blush.

A new report by the Pew Research Center finds that 29 percent of those between the ages of 25 and 34 have lived at home at some point during the tough economy of recent years — and most say they are satisfied with that arrangement and optimistic about their financial futures.

For many of today’s 20- and 30-somethings, moving back to or remaining in their parents’ homes has been a matter of economic necessity, not a choice, said Kim Parker, associate director of Pew’s Social and Demographic Trends Project and the author of the report released Thursday.

Overall, the study shows the share of Americans living in multigenerational family households is the highest it has been since the 1950s. The trend is driven largely by the economy but also by demographic changes, including delays in the age of marriage. Adults ages 25 to 34 are among the most likely to be living in such households.

The recession struck especially hard at young adults just entering the workforce, with recent government economic data showing a record gap in employment levels between the young and all working-age adults.

Still, for many young adults and their parents, the decision to stay under one roof may be a mutually beneficial arrangement, Parker said.

For example, almost half of 25- to 34-year-olds say they contribute to the family household by paying rent to their parents. Nearly nine in 10 say they help out with household expenses, and others do chores around the house, the study showed.

“This suggests they’re not just freeloading at home but doing something of benefit to their parents,” Parker said.

And most don’t appear to be living the high life. Nearly eight in 10 say they don’t have enough money to have the life they want, compared with 55 percent of their peers who aren’t at home with their parents.

Nonetheless, of those 25- to 34-year-olds residing with their families, large majorities say they are satisfied with that arrangement and upbeat about their futures.

The Pew report drew on recent census data, along with survey results of that group, which has been dubbed the “boomerang generation” because many who had left home for school or work eventually bounced back into the nest.

Some, including Amanda Seals, have done it more than once.

Seals, 30, of Johnston, Iowa, who had lived at home periodically during her college years, found herself back in her mother’s house for several months last year after an overseas job didn’t work out. It was deflating to have to move home, she said.

“It definitely felt a little weird to be back there,” said Seals, who is now on her own, living with her longtime boyfriend and working as a loan servicing specialist at a bank. “I enjoy spending time with my mom, but I also felt like by now I should be established and not depending on her to help me.”

Seals said the experience of living at home didn’t harm her relationship with her mother.

Of Pew’s respondents, nearly half said being at home had made no difference in their relationships with their parents, while 25 percent said it had been harmful, and about the same share said it had a positive influence.

Parker and other experts also noted that until the middle of the last century, young people customarily continued to live with their parents until they formed their own families. The recession has, perhaps temporarily, renewed that pattern.

Frank Furstenberg, a University of Pennsylvania sociologist, said the trend should not be surprising, or disturbing.

“It’s a sign that the family is functioning,” Furstenberg said. “We should be much more disturbed if the family wasn’t there as a safety net, and if these people were out on the streets. This is an adaptation to a difficult time.”

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