A new report from the Census Bureau revealed that about a quarter of older millennials aged 25 to 34 who are living at home are neither working nor in school. A full third of young people between the ages of 18 and 34 are living at home, these millennials are putting off marriage, and young men are falling behind economically.
Young people today define adulthood in terms of schooling and full-time employment, more so than moving out of their parents’ house and starting families of their own. They consider marriage to be a capstone after economic stability, and get married much later, compared to earlier generations. Interestingly, however, they move in with romantic partners at about the same time as earlier generations got married.
Even so, more young people live in their parents’ home than in any other arrangement. A full third of millennials lived with their folks in 2015. A mere ten years earlier, in 2005, the majority of young adults lived in their own household, which was the predominant living arrangement in 35 states. In 2015, only six states had a majority of millennials on their own.
Perhaps this shift reflects the attitudes of millennials. When it comes to becoming an adult, the vast majority of young people say completing formal schooling was extremely (62 percent) or somewhat (33 percent) important. Similar numbers say the same about being employed full-time (52 percent extremely, 43 percent somewhat).
Millennials value being financially independent from parents, describing it as extremely (43 percent) or at least somewhat (54 percent) important in becoming an adult. But they value moving out of their parents’ household much less, with only 26 percent saying it is extremely important to do so, 56 percent saying it is somewhat important, and 19 percent saying it is not at all important to move out in order to become an adult.
By contrast, a full 55 percent of young people say getting married and having a child are “not at all” important in becoming an adult.
While millennials do not consider marriage to be an important step to adulthood, they do get married, just at later ages. In 1995, for instance, 59 percent of women married by the age of 25, while in 2010, only 44 percent did so. But by age 40, the vast majority of women had gotten married (86 percent in 1995 and 84 percent in 2010).
In 1976, 69 percent of women between the ages of 25 and 29 were already mothers. Today, only women between the ages of 30 and 34 are that likely to have had children. But the delay of marriage is even more striking. In 1976, 85 percent of women and 75 percent of men were married by age 29. Today, that many men and women are getting married — but in their 40s.
Even so, millennials are still settling into long-term romantic relationships at roughly the same age. Since the 1980s, the age when people start their first co-residential relationship has consistently stayed around 22. As the report stated, “young adults are still starting relationships at the same age that their parents did, but they are trading marriage for cohabitation.”
Women are having children before they get married — nearly 40 percent of all births in the United States are to unmarried women.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the delay of marriage is the economic doldrums suffered by young men. Tragically, young men are worse off today than in 1975. At that time, only 25 percent of men made less than $30,000 per year (in 2015 dollars), and 49 percent made between $30,000 and $60,000 annually. Today, 41 percent of young men are in the lowest bracket, while 35 percent remain in the middle.
While fewer men (16 percent) make between $60,000 and $90,000 per year today than in 1975 (23 percent), slightly more make $100,000 or more today (7.6 percent) than did then (3.3 percent). Even so, the general story for young men is not a happy one.
Young women have made much stronger gains, but still make less than their male counterparts. Lifestyle choice still explains part of this (14 percent of millennial women are homemakers, compared to 43 percent of young women in 1975).
Millennials are more likely than their parents’ generation to live with roommates or with an unmarried partner. In 1975, most young people (57 percent) lived with a spouse, while a sizable amount lived with parents (26 percent), and only 11 percent lived with roommates and 5 percent lived alone. In 2016, 31 percent live with parents, 27 percent live with a spouse, 21 percent live with roommates, 12 percent with an unmarried partner, and 8 percent live alone.
More than half of young millennials (18 to 24) live with their parents, but they are more likely to be enrolled in school. The full quarter of older millennials living at home without work or a job are more likely to only have a high school education, more likely to have a child, and more likely to have a disability.
Overall, millennials living with parents or roommates are often trying to find firmer footing — they are more likely to be enrolled in school, for instance.
Not everything in the study was negative, however. More young people today (37 percent) than in 1975 (22.8 percent) have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and fewer have no high school diploma (9.2 percent in 2016, 17.6 percent in 1975). Young women on average make nearly $7,000 more per year than they did in 1975.
Finally, even though more young people are living with their parents, parents with millennials living at home are just as satisfied with their living arrangements as are empty-nesters, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Also, more than 67 percent of young adults living with parents report being very happy with their family life.
Millennials are easy to mock, but many of them really are struggling — especially the young men who find themselves making less than their fathers did at their age. The fact that young women are likely to have children before they get married also adds strain to the lives of millennials.
Even among the 1 in 4 older millennials living at home with their parents, the study focused on the high rates of disability and likelihood that these less-educated young people have children of their own. Many of them may need to get their acts together, but the stereotype of the lazy young man playing video games doesn’t tell the whole story.