Homeward Bound: Why Gen Z Adults Are Living With Their Parents at Record Rates

A 2022 study found that 54% of people aged 18 to 25 — more commonly referred to as “Gen Zers” — are choosing to live with their parents due to a myriad of economic factors. Cost-of-living and housing expenditures contribute to the trend, and some economic experts say the Midwest may be a more attractive region for young adults to settle. Cover graphic by Ruth Chang for Midstory.

Like many recent college graduates, Amy Race is currently scoping out the job market. Race, who graduated from the University of Cincinnati this April with a bachelor’s degree in middle childhood education, aspires to teach fourth or fifth graders.

Until she finds a full-time job, however, Race is taking part in an increasingly popular phenomenon for adults aged 18 to 25: living at home with their parents.

According to a 2022 study conducted by The Harris Poll and commissioned by the financial service company DailyPay, 54% of people aged 18 to 25 — or “Gen Zers” — are choosing to live at home with their parents. 

The current economic climate is one cause of the trend. The study finds that just 28% of Gen Z adults are typically able to pay all of their bills on time. Alternatively, living with one’s parents can allow some young adults, like Race, to save money rather than spend it on rent and utilities. 

“I didn’t want to pay for my own place,” said Race, who is currently living in Canton, Ohio while working two part-time jobs. “I don’t have to pay for rent. I don’t have to pay for groceries.”

She said she plans to move out as soon as she’s compensated for a full-time position.

Although the nationwide unemployment rate peaked at 14.7% in April 2020 due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, those numbers have since dropped. Civilian unemployment nationwide was 3.4% in April 2023, the lowest figure in the past two decades, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the Midwest, the rate was 3.2% the same month. 

David Schwarz, head of corporate communications at DailyPay, created questions for the study with The Harris Poll. Schwarz said given record rates of low unemployment, there are greater opportunities for young and skilled job-seekers. 

Schwarz said he believes rising cost-of-living due to inflation is the main reason why Gen Z adults are choosing to live at home. 

The national inflation rate, or consumer price index, peaked at 9.1% in June 2022, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The rate has since fallen to 4% as of May 2023.

“Those things like food and fuel really affected folks,” Schwarz said. “That little bump made it very challenging for people to make ends meet.”

The share of young U.S. adults living with their parents has historically increased during periods of economic uncertainty, according to data from the Pew Research Center

In 1940, during the tail-end of the Great Depression, 48% of those aged 18 to 29 lived with their parents, representing the highest measured value since 1900. The U.S. saw a similar number of young adults living with their parents at 44% in 2010, following the Great Recession

Despite the overall surge of Gen Z adults heading back home, some states in the Midwest that are more affordable — such as North Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa — tend to see fewer adults still living with their parents. According to data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, all Midwestern states had a composite cost of living index below 96.6 as of the first quarter of 2023, representing some of the lowest numbers in the nation.

Bruce Weinberg, a professor in The Ohio State University’s economics department, said current economic uncertainty coupled with increasing interest rates in housing purchases could be causing young adults to return to their parents. 

Weinberg said the U.S. is currently in a “transition” period due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy and workplace conditions. He said the introduction of remote work during the pandemic facilitates choice in deciding where to live. 

“I do think the remote component of the pandemic was a really powerful force,” Weinberg said. “I think we’re still at a point where we’re trying to figure out whether people are going to continue working remotely.”

Weinberg also said, however, that the Midwest could be an attractive region for young adults to settle since housing prices tend to be higher on the coasts.

Student debt is yet another cause of returning home, according to Weinberg. Alyssea Hart’s experience echoes the sentiment. She graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design in May 2022 and is currently living with her parents in Northwood, Ohio, just south of Toledo.  

Hart, who said she aspires to work for an animation studio, decided to move back with her parents after summer 2022 in order to save money to eventually move out and pay off some of her student loans. She’s currently working as an assistant manager at a Jimmy Johns in Northwood.

Hart said she’s not the only student in her graduating class to move home with their parents after college, a trend she believes should be normalized.

“When I was in college, I talked to all of my friends and all of them were saying they’re going back home,” she said. “They don’t want to but they’re like, ‘gotta save money.’”

David Albouy, an economics professor at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said shifts in household formation could be another cause for the trend.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, most adults born between 1940 and 1944 had married by age 25. Of those born between 1990 and 1994, however, only 30.3% of women and 20.3% of men married by that same age.

Albouy said young adults who would have married at a younger age in previous decades may now instead choose to live with their parents, build their careers and save money for future homes.

Regardless of social trends, finding housing is still a key challenge for young adults. Increasing housing options, especially in larger cities, could help young adults start to build their own households, Albouy said.

According to the DailyPay and The Harris Poll study, just one-third of Gen Z adults are worried it will be more challenging to buy a house in the future due to inflation. These results suggest young adults may be mostly optimistic about the future housing market, the study says.

But in the meantime, Albouy said it makes sense why young adults, like Race and Hart, may choose to live at home right now. 

“I kind of had to make a decision of ‘Do I want to move out or stay in Columbus?’ Because I really liked it there,” Hart said. “Or did I want to go back and save up money to prepare a little better? I chose that. It wasn’t what I wanted to do but it was more responsible to do.”


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