More young U.S. adults live with parents: study

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - More young American adults are living with their parents due to the economic downturn and a lack of jobs in a phenomenon dubbed “full nest syndrome,” according to new research.

The study showed that last year 52.8 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 were living at home, compared with 47.3 in 1970.

“Unfavorable employment conditions make school and educational investments a more attractive option for some young adults,” said Vanessa Wight of Columbia University in New York.

“It may also make living at home a necessity for young adults who cannot afford to live on their own,” the senior researcher at the National Center for Children in Poverty, a think tank at the university, added.

The study also showed that one in seven young adults is emerging from their teenage years with no pathway to financial and economic independence.

Wight added that the transition to adulthood is becoming increasingly delayed, unlike previous decades when reaching adulthood meant leaving home, getting married and having children.

The researchers, who used data from the U.S. Current Population Survey, found that delayed adulthood coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of young Americans enrolled in school. The number rose from less than 30 percent in 1970 to 45.5 percent in 2008.

Young adults are also delaying marriage and starting a family. In 1970, the median age for a first marriage was 20.8 for women and 23.2 for men, compared to 25.9 for women and 28.1 for men in 2009.

“Some research suggests that the notion of adulthood is changing and that marriage and parenthood, once the hallmarks of adult status, are no longer as important to defining a successful transition to adulthood,” Wight said.

“Others have argued that changes in values and attitudes have contributed to rising individualism. So, we are less willing to get married,” she added.

American Indians and Alaskan native communities had the highest percentage of young adults who were not financially and economically independent.

“Relative to other race/ethnic groups, they have historically suffered from poor employment opportunities within their community, higher unemployment rates, and a range of factors such as high rates of depression,” she said.

Wight believes that a public policy approach can help ameliorate the long-term impact of young disconnection.

“We need to focus on keeping children and youth on track to be connected in young adulthood .... And we need to focus on reconnecting those who fall off the track and fail to launch.”

Reporting by Bernd Debusmann Jr., editing by Patricia Reaney