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Why the Boomerang Kids Aren't Flying the Nest

Why the boomerang generation won't move out
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

A decade or two ago, you might have raised a serious eyebrow at a late-twentysomething still living at home with Mom and Dad. But admit it, you probably know at least one person today who does — and not in that creepy "he lives in the basement and never comes upstairs" kind of way.

According to a recent study, that's because one in five adults in their late 20s and early 30s are still living at home these days. A decade ago, that number was one in 10. And while they were first referred to as the "boomerang" generation because of their initial return home in the post-college, pre-career stage, it doesn't seem like they're going anywhere any time soon.

A New York Times piece on the topic recently explored this phenomenon, along with the story of a 27-year-old named Annie Kasinecz, who is still living at home with her mom in Downers Grove, Ill. While she doesn't mind living at home, Annie struggles with two different versions of why she's still at home in her head. Sometimes, she takes an upbeat look at the whole situation: She's just a young twentysomething doing the responsible thing by saving money while living rent-free, weighing her career options. Other times, she sees things much differently, realizing that she's been "weighing her career options" for four years now, and wondering if living at home has become a crutch.

She's certainly not alone. Even those born in the late '80s and early '90s who don't live at home are turning out to be far more reliant on Mom and Dad than previous generations. Take this eye-opening stat: 60 percent of young adults accept financial help from their parents, which is a definite shift from the past.

But then of course, these are different times. Currently, nearly half of all recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed (meaning the jobs they do have don't even require college degrees). They are also saddled with steep student loan debt — the average 25-year-old has at least $20,000 to pay off (Annie has $60,000). And despite the U.S. economy's uptick over the last few years, it's impossible not to tie these struggles back to the 2008 recession, which has clearly had lasting effects on the job market.

But realizing that the "temporary" move home of the boomerang generation has lasted far longer than anyone expected, it raises another interesting question. As writer Adam Davidson wonders in his NYT piece, could boomerang kids actually be part of a new and permanent life stage?

The phenomenon is so new, that's still hard to say. In the meantime, we just have to sit back and watch how it all plays out. But as Annie shares, the pressures waged against this particular generation are uniquely challenging.

“We’re kind of in this limbo phase where we’re expected to be these great professionals who come out of college with bomb-ass jobs,” she said of her generation. “And then we’re like, wait — I’ve got 80 grand in debt. How am I supposed to do that?”

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