A Record Number Of Millennials Are Living at Home, But It’s Not What It Looks Like

According to a new study produced by the Pew Research Center, a record number of millennials are shacking up with their parents. But judging by how tough the job market is, and the tremendous burden of student loan debt (our generation is currently saddled with over $1 trillion of it), this is not too surprising.

In 2012, 36% of 18-31-year-olds were living in their parents' home — the highest number for that age bracket in four decades. This means that approximately 21.6 million millennials lived at home in 2012, or one in three millennials. But not all millennials are the same. Younger millennials (those aged 18-24 years old) are over three times more likely than older ones to be living at home (56% vs. 16%) and men are more likely to live at home than women (40% vs. 32%).

Pew found three main reasons that explain why so many of us are choosing to remain under our parents' roofs: declining employment rates, rising college enrollment, and declining marriage rates. In 2007, just before the Great Recession, 70% of 18-to-31-year-olds had jobs. In 2012, that number was down to 63%. Do you have a job? Feel thankful — one in two Millennials is either jobless or underemployed. And on one hand, more of us are going to college — 39% in March 2012 compared to 35% in March 2007 — but millennials in school are more likely to live at home (66%) than those not in college (50%). And finally, we can blame holy matrimony (or the lack thereof). In 2007, 30% of 18-to-31-year-olds were married, but in 2012, only 25% of millennials were married. Understandably, unmarried millennials are more likely than married ones to live with mom and dad (47% vs. 3%).

These statistics have implications beyond just having to abide by your high school curfew and middle school chore chart. Living at home affects the rest of the economy as well. The Great Recession in 2008 was sparked in part because of the bust in the housing market. And while the economy and the stock market have improved and the unemployment rate has gone down, the housing market continues to drag down the economy as a whole. So although our wariness of taking on additional loans for a home mortgage is reasonable, we aren't paying property taxes, and therefore not contributing to the revenues of our local governments.

Obviously more affordable, quality rental housing is needed. According to a report from the New York Federal Reserve, between 2009-2011, only 9% of 29-34-year olds were approved for a first-time mortgage.  And it is important to note that the money that our parents' generation would have spent on a down payment for a house, we need to use to pay off our student loan debt. The need for student loan reform is obvious, but Obama's current proposal won’t do much for all the millennials cooped up in their parents' basements, since the President's plan would only affect students enrolling in school in 2014 or later. But instead of criticizing Obama’s student loan proposal, it might be more worthwhile to direct our anger and attention to our colleges and universities — institutions that continue to hike tuition rates year after year. Without a burst in the college tuition bubble, higher education will soon only be available to a small segment of our population — a prospect that is far more frightening than parents having to delay a few more years before turning your childhood bedroom into the family gym.