More women living with parents after college since 1940s

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More young adult women are returning home after graduating from college to live with their parents according to a Pew Research Center study.

Sarah Tuttle decided to move back in with her parents after graduating from UVU to save money. She plans to use it as a stepping stone as she transitions from being a student to having a career.
Sarah Tuttle decided to move back in with her parents after graduating from UVU to save money. She plans to use it as a stepping stone as she transitions from being a student to having a career. (Sarah Tuttle)

According to the United States Census Bureau, 25.3 percent of young adults in Utah are living with parents, compared to 30.3 percent at the national level.

U.S. Census Bureau Fertility and Family Statistics demographer Jonathan Vespa corrected the assumption that this is a recent trend.

“We see an increase in the trend of young adults living at home going back before the great recession,” Vespa said.

Seventeen percent of young adults in Utah are living in poverty and are earning less than those in other states. Larry Nelson, a professor in the school of family life at BYU, sees the economy as the biggest factor describing why young adults moving back in with their parents.

“Many individuals will no longer have Pell Grants or scholarships or financial aid of some sort to help,” Nelson said. “They had campus jobs and no longer have access to those, so they are just in a time which financially the cost of living they see (living with their parents) as a stepping stone.”

Vespa agrees the economy plays a role in young adults’ decision to move back home after graduating.

“Research shows that it is tied to economics and the ability to form a household is tied to having steady income, being employed and having a secure employment,” Vespa said.

Susan Madsen, a UVU professor of leadership and ethics, said it could be in part because women are attending college at a higher rate. Madsen is also the founder and director of the Utah Women and Leadership Project.

“Nationally in the last 20 years, we have had a lot more women going to college and graduating from college. I believe it’s probably one of the differences,” Madsen said. “Fifty-seven percent of students in higher educational settings, Utah is a bit different, are female. So that has changed in the last 20 years and really gone up in the last 10 years.”

Likewise, nationally there has been an average increase in housing costs, making it harder for young adults living below the poverty level to acquire housing. Madsen specifically pointed out not only are more women going to school, but more are going to school longer to pursue an even higher education.

“Bottom line with housing costs increasing, when you’re a college student you tend to be poor,” Madsen said. “There’s more women going into graduate degrees, so masters and higher as well, so that means later in life they are still going to school.”

Sarah Tuttle graduated with an associates degree from Utah Valley University and decided to move back in with her parents due to the proximity of her work to their house and the money she would save not paying for an apartment. She enjoys having her own space.

“I love living at home because I have my own room, a big queen-sized bed, and my own bathroom, and I have home cooked meals so I don’t have to pay for anything,” Tuttle said. “I save money!”

Tuttle plans to return to school for an even higher education. Her social life has suffered from moving back home due to not having the student roommate experience, she said.

“It’s different. There are definitely pros and cons to both,” Tuttle said. “I don’t have much of a social life, my singles ward that I go to are much younger kids and I don’t hang out with them that much at all. So it was nice when you’re living at home having your roommates and the ward all so close by and doing stuff all the time.”

Nelson does research specifically targeting the flourishing and floundering of young adults 18 to 34 and has noticed many students are finding it difficult to find jobs that pertain to their majors.

“The path from college into full-time work is not as clear for some degrees as others,” Nelson said. “And so with the competitive job market, the move to some of the more technical jobs leave some needing a little more time to figure out what to do with that degree.”

Madsen noted the exorbitant amount of student debt due to the recent economic crisis. Women are preparing for a future that does not include maintaining debt for long periods of time.

“We have a lot of student debt, with the last crash that we’re coming out of, I think more people are paying attention, and women more than men worry about finances,” Madsen said. “More women are going to school and paying attention to the future and not wanting debt that will take them forever to pay off. And housing costs just generally across the nation have gone up.”

Generationally this is not a new trend. Vespa said young adults have been living with their parents after graduating since the ’70s.

“If you look at it over a historical perspective, the parents that the young adults are living with right now were also living with their parents when they were young adults,” Vespa said. “So if you look back at the way 1970s and ’80s you see a rise in young adults living with their parents, so it’s certainly not a new trend that millennials are creating.”

Nelson believes this trend is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as it’s a temporary fix to help young adults prepare for a financially secure future or as a temporary remedy while they prepare for the next stage in their life.

“I truly believe that it is a financial step,” Nelson said. “With jobs harder to come by … it is a springboard as they move on to the next phase of life. I don’t see this as a bad thing, I see if a young person returns home as a stepping stone to the next stage of their flourishing. If this is a stepping stone to the next step forward, then it’s great. If it is a move backwards to avoid progress and growth, then that’s when it can be problematic.”

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