(September 2011) More young adults—especially men—are delaying marriage and staying in their parents' homes, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Between 2007 and 2011, the number of young adults living at home rose from 4.7 million to 5.9 million—contributing to an increase in "doubled-up" households since the onset of the recession.1

But the national numbers mask an important gender difference. Since 2007, the share of young men living at home has increased sharply, from 14.2 percent to 18.6 percent, while the share of women living with their parents has remained fairly steady, at around 10 percent.2 The share of young men living at home has reached its highest level since the Census Bureau first starting tracking the measure in 1960.


Share of Men and Women Ages 25-34 Living With Their Parents, 2000-2011

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey.


In 2000, the gap between men and women living at home was relatively small, at 4.5 percentage points, and since 1960, the gender gap had never exceeded 7 percentage points. But by 2011, the difference between men's and women's rates had grown to 8.9 percentage points, the largest gender gap in at least 50 years. Young men are now nearly twice as likely as women to live with their parents.

What explains the divergence in men's and women's living arrangements? For many decades, young men have been more likely to live with their parents than young women. Researchers have linked this gender difference to women's earlier age at marriage, although cultural and economic factors also play a role.3 Employed college graduates are much less likely to live at home compared to those who are unemployed with no education beyond high school.4 In 2011, 22 percent of young men living at home were unemployed and 52 percent had never attended college.5 For men in other living arrangements, 9 percent were unemployed and 41 percent had never gone to college.

From these figures, it's clear that men's economic prospects play an important role in their decision to leave the nest. With fewer jobs available, it's likely that more young men are choosing to stay—or move back—home with their parents to save on housing and other costs. Young adults living at home rely heavily on their parents' income. The official poverty rate for young adults living with their parents is 8 percent, but if only the child's income is considered, the poverty rate rises to 45 percent.6

Among women, employment and education levels among those living inside and outside their parents' homes are more similar. About 12 percent of women living at home were unemployed while 39 percent had never attended college. For those in other living arrangements, 8 percent were unemployed and 32 percent had not gone to college. The similar profile of the two groups suggests that non-economic factors may play a more important role in women's decisions to live with their parents, compared with their male counterparts. And this pattern may help explain why the trend line for women remained flat during the recent recession, while so many young men have moved back home.

There is another factor at work here: historically low marriage rates. Over half of all men ages 25 to 34 (52 percent) have never been married, according to the latest Census Bureau figures.7 Men's marriage rates have dropped sharply during the past decade and the decline has accelerated since the onset of the recession.8 Some of these single men are in cohabiting relationships, but a large and growing number are living at home. Marriage rates have dropped for women as well, but young women are still much more likely to be married (51 percent) compared with their male counterparts (42 percent)—a difference that reflects women's earlier average age at marriage.

Black and Latino Men More Likely to Live at Home

In 2011, 31 percent of young black men lived in their parents' homes, compared with 11 percent of young black women—a startling 20-percentage-point gap. Among Latinos, 21 percent of young men and 11 percent of young women lived with their parents, while the gap between white men (15 percent) and women (9 percent) was smaller than those of other groups. African American and Latino men have been disproportionately affected by the recession, which may have exacerbated these gender differences.9 Since 2007, Latino men have experienced the largest jump in young men living at home—an 8-percentage-point increase in just four years.

At the state level, New York has the highest proportion of young men living with their parents (21 percent), followed by New Jersey and Hawaii (19 percent each). The high cost of living in these states undoubtedly plays an important role in young adults' decisions to live at home. New York also had the largest gap between men and women living in their parents' homes. Between 2009 and 2011, 27 percent of young men in New York lived with their parents compared with 14 percent of women.10 Young women's high earnings in New York City, relative to young men, may help explain this gender difference.11 Most of the states with the lowest proportions of young adults living at home were located in the Midwest.

Implications

The rising number of young adult men living with their parents could signal further declines in marriage, family formation, and childbearing among young adults in the United States. The U.S. is inching its way toward a more European model where people routinely wait until their 30s to leave the parental nest.12 In Europe, as in the United States, young men are much more likely than young women to reside in their parents' homes.

However, it is unclear whether the recent increase in men living at home signals a long-term trend or is a short-term adaptation to the recession. Regardless of future economic trends, the growing racial/ethnic diversity of young adults in the United States is expected to contribute to more complex living arrangements in the future.


Mark Mather is associate vice president, Domestic Programs, at the Population Reference Bureau.


References

  1. U.S. Census Bureau, "Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010," accessed at www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb11-157.html (Sept. 19, 2011). Data are from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.
  2. In the CPS, unmarried college students living in dormitories are counted as living in their parents homes.
  3. See Zhu Xiao Di, Yi Yang and Xiaodong Liu, "Young American Adults Living in Parental Homes," Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University, accessed at www.jchs.harvard.edu/publications/markets/di_W02-3.pdf, on Sept. 19, 2011.
  4. Rose M. Kreider, "Young Adults Living in their Parents' Home," paper presented at the ASA annual meetings in New York, Aug. 12, 2007.
  5. PRB calculations from the Census Bureau's 2011 Current Population Survey. Percent unemployed is calculated by dividing the number unemployed (looking for work or on layoff) by the total number who are working or unemployed.
  6. U.S. Census Bureau, "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2010," accessed at www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/income_wealth/cb11-157.html, on Sept. 19, 2011.
  7. PRB calculations from the Census Bureau's 2011 Current Population Survey.
  8. Mark Mather and Diana Lavery, "In U.S., Proportion Married at Lowest Recorded Levels," accessed at www.prb.org/Articles/2010/usmarriagedecline.aspx, on Sept. 19, 2011.
  9. Linda A. Jacobsen and Mark Mather, "U.S. Social and Economic Trends Since 2000," Population Bulletin 65, no. 1 (2010).
  10. Data for New York are based on a three-year average of CPS data from 2009 to 2011.
  11. Sam Roberts, "For Young Earners in Big City, a Gap in Women's Favor," The New York Times (Aug. 3, 2007), accessed at www.nytimes.com/2007/08/03/nyregion/03women.html?pagewanted=print, on Sept. 20, 2011.
  12. Marta Choroszewicz and Pascal Wolff, "51 Million Young EU Adults Lived With Their Parent(s) in 2008," Eurostat Statistics in Focus, accessed at http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_OFFPUB/KS-SF-10-050/EN/KS-SF-10-050-EN.PDF, on Sept. 20, 2011.