In yet another sign of the fallout from our lingering economic woes, many young adults will not have to journey “home for the holidays” this season.

Young Adults Home

Why? They never left home in the first place.

While the typical 20-something American of the past half century has moved away from Mom and Dad to launch a new career, he or she is now staying much closer to home. According to statistics released this month by the Census Bureau, just 23 percent of Americans in the 25- to 29-year-old age bracket moved in the past 12-month period ending March 2013. That figure is down from 24.6 percent in the same period of the previous year and is the lowest level since at least 1963. The peak mobility year for young adults — 36.7 percent – was in the year 1965.

The new Census Bureau figures reveal how the economy is affecting young people who are burdened with college debt, a fiercely competitive job market and the high cost of renting or owning a home. Some experts are now referring to this age group – often called Millennials – as “Generation Wait.”  Many of these young Americans are in limbo as they postpone their lives – seemingly waiting to get married, waiting to have children and waiting to have a home of their own.

According to a Pew Research Center study earlier this year, 36 percent of young adults ages 18 – 31 are now living with their parents – the highest percentage in four decades. Unemployment appears to have a significant effect on these figures. Since the last time Pew collected this data information in 2007, unemployment has gone up seven percent.

Put another way, the study reveals that 21.6 million young adults lived in their parents’ homes in 2012, up from 18.5 million in 2007.

The Census Bureau study results show that, while homeownership fell by three percentage points to 65 percent across all age groups from 2007 to 2012, the drop-off among adults in their mid-to-late 20s was much larger. That percentage fell more than six percentage points, from 40.6 percent to 34.3 percent in the five-year period.

This change in housing and migration is further burdening the already sluggish housing market, as young adults forestall setting up their own households. Not surprisingly, home ownership in metropolitan areas saw the biggest declines. The District of Columbia had the lowest overall homeownership rate at 41.6 percent, followed by New York at 53.9 percent. West Virginia had the highest homeownership rate at 72.9 percent.

Retiring (and moving) Baby Boomers kept the rate of migration rate for adults 55 and older steady at 4.4 percent from 2012 to 2013, up from a low of 4 percent in 2011. The cities of Phoenix, Atlanta, Denver and several cities in Florida saw gains in population from that age group, while some cities in the Northeast and the Midwest saw losses.

The drop in migration by young adults is part of an overall decline in local moves within a county in the Unites States, the Census Bureau reported. Out-of-state moves also fell, from 3.8 percent in 2012 to 3.4 percent. Young men are more likely to be living at home than young women as a rate of 40 percent to 32 percent, the national numbers also show.

Overall, the Census Bureau reports that 35.9 million Americans, or 11.7 percent of the entire population, moved between 2012 and 2013. The data comes from “Geographical Mobility: 2012 to 2013,” a collection of tables from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey, which  describes the movement of Americans, including type of move, reason for moving, and distance moved in the past year.

The report shows that almost two-thirds of the movers stayed in the same county, and that the majority of those who did leave their county moved less than 50 miles away. Only 24.7 percent moved 500 or more miles away from home.

Understandably, renters moved more than homeowners in the same period last year — 24.9 percent compared with 5.1 percent of owners.

Parents were most likely to move if they lived with a child under the age of 6. Among these families, about 20 percent who had children only under the age of 6 moved, and 14.4 percent who had a mix of children under age 6 and between the ages of 6 and 17 moved in the same time period.

Contributing factors to young adults living with their parents appear to be:

  • Declining employment. In 2012, 63 percent of young people in the 18 to 31 age bracket were employed, down from 70 percent of the same age group who had jobs five years before. In 2012, unemployed 20-somethings were much more likely than those who were employed to be living with their parents (45 percent as compared with 29 percent).
  • Rising college enrollment. In March 2012, nearly 40 percent of the 18- to 24-year-olds in America were enrolled in college, a 4 percent increase from the same age group in March 2007. Keep in mind that the Census Bureau counts college students who live on-campus as living with their parents. The Bureau does, however, segregate respondents into an 18 to 24 and a 25 to 31 group, and both age groups reflect the lack of migration. Among 18- to 24-year olds, college students were much more likely than non-college students to be living at home – a difference of 66 percent versus 50 percent.
  • Declining marriage. Today’s unmarried young adults are more likely to be living with their parents than married young adults (47 percent versus 3 percent). In 2012, about one-fourth of young adults age 18 to 31 were married, down from the 30 percent of that age group who were married in 2007.

Some demographers think that the trend of young people staying longer at home may not go away even after the economy improves.

“It’s not just the poor economy,” according to Richard Fry, a Pew senior research associate.  “There indeed may be less (of a) stigma among young adults about living at home. Even when the economy fully recovers, the tendency may be to live at home longer.”