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Adult Children Returning to Family Homes in Near-record Numbers


FILE - Millennials, young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 increasingly live with their parents.

"My dad was like, 'You should stay home until you get married,'" said Hannah Raines, 21, of Knoxville, Tennessee.

Raines emphasizes that her father was joking, but she says she is moving back in with her parents after she graduates from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in May. She plans to work and save money for graduate school.

She is not alone in her decision to become a “boomerang” kid.

The Pew Research Center found that 32 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds lived at their parents' homes in 2014, the highest percentage to do so since 1940. Thirty-one percent were living with a significant other in their own household. Twenty-two percent were living in dormitories, group homes or with non-parent family members; and 14 percent lived alone or as single parents.

Experts say this generation of young adults is entering a different economic world from their predecessors. Starting salaries have not kept up with housing costs, much less with growing amounts of student debt.

Pavel Marceux, a households specialist at market research firm Euromonitor International, says moving home can be a sound economic decision. Young adults living at home with little or no rent are freer to save money or pay down loans. In addition, the living arrangement can help aging parents keep abreast of changing technology, such as cellphones and "smart" appliances.

Dakota Raines and his twin sister, Hannah, are among the growing number of “boomerang” kids. Dakota has moved back in with his parents in Tennessee, and Hannah plans to do the same in May. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Raines)
Dakota Raines and his twin sister, Hannah, are among the growing number of “boomerang” kids. Dakota has moved back in with his parents in Tennessee, and Hannah plans to do the same in May. (Photo courtesy of Hannah Raines)

Raines' parents, Jim and Juli, already have some experience in this area: Hannah's twin brother, Dakota, has lived with them since last year.

Juli Raines says having her college-age son back home is fine with her.

"It was very natural," she said, adding that the toughest adjustments were logistical ones.

Since every member of the family has a car, parking was one such issue. "You don't really think about that, having enough room for everybody to park," she said.

Planning for the future

The inconvenience, however, has a perk: Juli Raines says having the adult children back home for a couple more years has helped her and her husband think more strategically about their future, such as planning when to tackle home improvements and when to retire.

Some parents see having their offspring back at home as giving them one more way to help them get a good start in life.

Giovanna Tolda, 30, of Northampton, Massachusetts, moved back in with her parents two months ago, while completing a master's degree program. She had just broken up with her live-in boyfriend.

Giovanna Tolda, 30, of Northampton, Massachusetts, moved back in with her parents while completing a master's degree program. (Photo by Phoebe Zimmerman)
Giovanna Tolda, 30, of Northampton, Massachusetts, moved back in with her parents while completing a master's degree program. (Photo by Phoebe Zimmerman)

Tolda is earning a degree in special education. She says her parents were glad to have her back while she finishes school and plans for the future.

"My parents also have been encouraging me to think about buying property in the area, instead of renting once I complete my masters, which should be in less than a year," she said.

Boomerang kids can even help their parents live out their own deferred dreams.

Dreams deferred and fulfilled

Photographer Damon Casarez, 29, took a series of photographs of his peers for The New York Times Magazine in 2014. After graduating with $120,000 in debt from the Art Center College of Design in 2012, he moved in with his parents to pursue a freelance photography career. He says his loan payments are what keep him home, despite winning awards and high-profile clients with his work.

"If I didn't have that loan, I'd easily be able to live on my own somewhere comfortably," he said. But he is quick to add that he is grateful for his education.

Casarez says his father, who works in architecture, actually wanted to go to art school to study painting. While neither of his parents went to college, Casarez says they always pushed him to pursue the career he wanted. He ended up studying photography at the very school his father had hoped to attend.

Casarez now has clients such as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter on his roster. He was named as one of 30 "New and Emerging Photographers" in an industry magazine last year.

While freelance income is difficult to predict, he hopes to move out of his parents' home by the end of this year.

Some experts say boomerang kids just refuse to grow up, and parents should not accommodate them.

Psychiatrist Melissa Deuter of San Antonio, Texas, specializes in mental health care for young adults. She says today's parenting style "does not appear to focus enough on preparing young people for the roles they need to take on as adults. We now have a generation of young people who not only do not fit into workplace culture, but they also simply dislike it."

But for Juli Raines, having her son move home to finish school was a no-brainer.

"It wasn't anything I had to think about," she said. "There really wasn't another option."

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