More Millennials Are Finding Jobs, But Stress And Residual Debt Are Keeping Them At Home With Their Parents

Millennials
Millennials aren't moving out of their parents house to their own homes, but are they actually able to do so? Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Between crippling, surmounting debt, and other generations accusing us of laziness as we struggle to find work, it’s not easy being a Millennial. We’ve already been put through the wringer trying to carve out career paths in the midst of an economic recession, but to top it all off, we can’t seem to move out of our parents’ homes, no matter how hard we try. A new study published by the Pew Research Center has found that even though the job market is a lot more promising for Millennialsl than it used to be, many are still electing to live at home rather than making the final push toward adulthood by owning their own home.

The Millennial generation, which is typically defined as people currently between the ages of 18 and 34, are not fully bouncing back in pace with the economy. Pew researchers have found that unemployment has finally reached pre-recession levels at 7.7 percent of Americans, which means that millennials are finding full-time employment. But most young adults are still delaying other markers of adulthood, like getting married or investing in a home, even though they are beginning to become financially independent.

Economist and lead author of the study Richard Fry cleverly calls this phenomenon the Millennial “failure to launch," and he it’s leaving economists stumped. “I think the core is a bit of a puzzle with one clear consequence,” he told Time. “There’s good news: the group that was hit hardest — young adults — are now getting full-time jobs and earnings are tracking upward. But the surprise is that with the recovery in the labor market, there are fewer young adults living independently.” Independently, Fry clarifies, means owning a home.

Many economists were not surprised that the recession caused many Millennials to revert to living with their parents. Hit just as hard by lack of employment and finding it difficult to become financially independent, many had no choice but to allow good old mom and dad to continue to provide a roof over their heads. However, economists and parents alike believed that once the economy took a turn for the better, which seems to be happening now, young adults would finally leave the nest to fly on their own.

But this still doesn’t seem to be happening, or at least not to the degree economists had hoped.

“Is it a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t know,” Fry said. When working on a study of Millennials’ living and working situations in 2012, he said finding that they were living with their parents was not surprising. “My thought was, ‘Yeah, that’s true, the job market is crummy,’” he said. “My expectation was that as the labor market improves, more young people will strike out on their own, but that’s not the case."

As for the statistics, it seems that less young people within the 18-to-34 age bracket are living on their own as they were in 2007; a total of 42.2 million Millennials own their own home in 2015, compared to 42.7 million in 2007. Researchers find that most of these household owners are women, who represent 72 percent of the demographic, and most are college educated (86 percent had bachelors degrees). Fry believes this percentage has something to do with women getting married or settling into permanent relationships, and then building a home with those partners.  

Time also notes that Millennials moving out on their own is crucial to helping the housing sector recover from its 2008 economic downturn; if more young adults decide to buy a home, the market would increase and help our economy overall.

It’s not that easy

So why aren’t millennials moving out and finally being independent? Could it possibly be that they just don’t want to be out on their own?

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not that cut and dry. Take this into consideration: A report by the American Psychological Association found that out of every age group, Millennials are, by far, the most stressed. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 constituting “little or no stress,” and 10 signifying “a great deal of stress,” Millennials come in at about a 5.4, with Boomers tailing at 4.7 and Matures at 3.7. The APA mostly attributed this statistic to this age bracket also having the highest unemployment rate (still) at 15 percent of young adults not having a job, a number higher than the national average.

According to APA Vice President Dr. Norman Anderson, being saddled with feelings of failure early on in the game is taking a serious mental toll on this generation. “It’s very hard to be a Millennial in this generation,” he said. “In the past, when you reached the age of 18 or 20, your prospects for gaining a foothold in the American economy and establishing yourself as an adult were much easier. Despite the good news that overall stress levels are down, it appears that the idea of living with stress higher than what we believe to be healthy and dealing with it in ineffective ways continues to be embedded in our culture.”

As a result, exposure to constant stress is leading to health complications that often result in mental health problems like anxiety, and depression, along with physical conditions like heart disease, sleep problems, and weight gain. What’s more, Millennials are still in indescribable debt, only adding to these mental health issues. According to Liberty Street Economics, student loan debt has tripled in the past eight years, leaving young adults burdened with a total of $1.1 trillion dollars in debt. Within the past 10 years, the number of 25-year-olds experiencing serious debt has increased from 25 percent to 43 percent, constituting almost half.

A study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine found that, naturally, this is only adding to mental health struggles for this generation. Mental health issues have now become a fact of life for post-grads, as issues like stress, anxiety, hopelessness, and depression were found to increase as debt became greater. Researchers found that the average amount of debt for individuals under 30 was about $23,300, with reports of stress-related mental health issues frequent.

So, how does this all relate back to living at home? When looking at it from this angle, the answer becomes relatively simple: the cost of owning a home is too much of a financial and mental burden for most millennials. Even though the economy has gotten better, it is a large jump to assume that this has fixed more of the deeper-seated issues Millennials are facing. With debt that is only starting to abate thanks to full-time employment, Millennials still cannot afford to move out.

What’s more, Millennials have enough stress on their plate that having the added financial stress of owning a home seems to be too much. By taking the time to move back home, young adults are given the opportunity to cope with the task of finding a solid career that they can stay in for the long-term, while also paying off any loans they still possess. The home thus provides an area of mental stability because it takes some of the pressure off, while Millennials struggle with the repercussions of common stressors, like subsequent anxiety and potential depression. Being with parents could also offer a potential support system when struggling through these mental health issues, which may aid Millennials in finding the help they need, or guide them in overcoming it.

So the question shouldn’t be, “Why aren’t millennials moving out?” It should be, “What is their current situation that they can’t move out?” And it seems to be that being mentally compromised is preventing them from feeling confident enough to establish themselves out on their own. Our task now is to figure out how we can help this generation deal with these levels of stress so they feel successful enough to move on to bigger ventures, like owning a home.

Source: Fry R, et al. More Millennials Living With Family Despite Improved Job Market. Pew Research Center. 2015.

Walsemann, K, Sick of our Loans: Student Borrowing and the Mental Health of Young adults in the United States. Social Science & Medicine. 2015.

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