This past week, Pew reported that 21.6 million millennials, defined as 18- to 31-year olds, still live at home. This means that 36% of millennials are relying on mom and dad, a record number over the past four decades.
The biggest driving factor? Unemployment, of course. The kids, myself included, just can’t seem to get a job, or a job that pays well enough to leave the nest, especially when faced with record levels of student loans. Only 63% of millennials are currently employed. Interestingly, men are more likely to live at home than women; 40% of millennial males are living at home.
While reading about Pew’s study, I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. To learn that a majority of Generation-Y live with their parents (as opposed to living alone, with roommates, with a spouse, or with other kin) is devastating. Is there much hope for my generation?
When this story broke, I noticed that there was a heavy response from Boomers and Gen-X. They chastised the fact that there is less of a stigma against failure to launch, and implied that the root of the problem is that millennials, such as myself, were lazy and entitled.
Being a part of the statistic myself, I do believe there is less of a stigma against living at home than in the past, but it’s still frowned upon. And it’s certainly not fun; being unemployed, dependent, broke with backbreaking debt with an expiring university degree never is. Living at home has become an accepted reality within millennial culture. I think that cultural acceptance of living at home is a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, there’s the argument that generation “Me, Me, Me” is just not trying hard enough to get a job. With mom, dad, and the state as a security blanket, our “entitled and annoying” generation has no incentive to start a career. We are just not trying hard enough. In this scenario, Generation-Y’s parents are equated to the welfare state; what would be best in the long-term would be to cut millennials off from the mom and pop money pump. Regardless of what outside forces might be affecting a Gen-Yer’s decision to live at home, they should get off their ass and take the first job available to them, even if they qualified for the position without a college education or prior work experience.
Naturally, I am less sympathetic with this view. Call me entitled all you want: I did not get my master’s degree for a life in poverty. If my family—synagogue, charity, or friends—are willing to offer help, I’m going to take it; if not, I would just be another statistic in the horribly underemployed partition of my generation. No, thank you.
So many of my friends are part of the “boomerang generation.” I am skeptical that so many millennials are opting to live with their parents because they’re lazy. Things are tough out there. The promise that came from attaining a college education has fallen through, and our resultant debt is maddening. We are in the midst of a recession that is hitting us the hardest, and the jobs that Generation-X saw at their entry-level have been replaced by unpaid internships (which tend to not count as work experience).
I am sick of the attitude that Gen-Y brought our living situations upon ourselves. Terrible policy decisions made by people much older than us have much to do with the low-job growth, not millennial entitlement and laziness. Have some empathy for those of us living at home. We are dreaming of a better life for ourselves, and given a better economy and time, we’ll get there.