Empty Nest Syndrome Cured by Economic Crisis

The idea of an “empty nest” is turning into an empty promise for many baby-boom generation parents.  A recent study found that young adults in the U.S. today are delaying independent living by nearly ten years compared to those in the 1950s — meaning their parents are supporting them.  Yet social scientists are on the fence about whether this is cause for concern or not.

The primary reason for the rise of the “Boomerang Generation” is financial: due to extended schooling, low-paying jobs and unemployment, young adults today are often unable to support themselves.  Rising unemployment since the collapse of the 2000 stock market bubble has coincided with this generation’s graduation from high school and college — with degree in hand, but nowhere to go.  These young adults are often living with their parents well into their 30s.

Not surprisingly, parental support is highest when parental income is highest: parents who can support their children, do.  Parental support is less likely when children are married or cohabiting.

According to U.S. Census statistics, this is primarily a trend among women.  The percentage of 18- to 24-year-old males living at home grew from 52 percent to only 53 percent from 1960 to 2005, yet among females that number grew from 35 to 46 percent.  This may be due to the fact that young adults are also delaying marriage.

Though the number of young adults living at home has increased 50 percent since the 1970s, this type of inter-generational cohabitation is common within Asian and Hispanic cultures, where “empty nest syndrome” is rare.  Some social scientists believe this is a positive trend for Western cultures, as it increases family interaction and can produce healthier adult relationships.

However, some believe we are simply enabling a generation of slackers.  Only time will tell.




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