Young adults moving back home with parents at historic rate

January 01 2022 12:00 am

INDIANAPOLIS — Before the pandemic, young adults were busy working, studying and living on their own. Then the pandemic hit, and young adults were hit hard. 

According to Pew Research, more than a quarter of young adults lost their jobs from February to May.

Moving back to Indianapolis wasn’t part of the plan for Megan Riner.

“It was just time to go,” said 25-year-old Riner, who moved back home from the West Coast.

Riner was working in Portland, Oregon, when the pandemic closed down much of the country. She was worried about her job and her mental health. Over the summer, the pandemic pushed her to make the decision to drive 2,000 miles back home.

“I was so scared of coming home and having to explain myself and be like, ‘I still live at my mom’s house,'” she said.

Millions of young adults across the country are doing the same thing. A majority of 18- to 29-year-olds are living with their parents, something that hasn’t been seen in decades.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, 48% of young adults lived at home. In 2020, we’ve surpassed that statistic, with 52% living with one or both of their parents as of July, up from 47% in February. According to the Pew Research Center, 2.6 million adults made the move back home between February and September of this year.

“When all of a sudden, when they’re faced with a lot of job insecurity, economic insecurity from the pandemic, it’s a logical decision to move back home,” said Phillip Powell, associate dean of academic programs at IU Kelley School of Business.

Powell said the impact this transition is having goes beyond just adding an extra person to a household.

“When young adults move back in with their parents, that means there’s less demand for residential real estate, whether it’s rental properties or starter homes, so that slows down your housing markets,” explained Powell.

In addition, Americans in their 20s hold a lot of spending power, and companies count on that.

“If they’re back home, that means they’re saving the money because they’re scared, or they don’t have the money because they’re not getting it from a paycheck. That could slow the economy down long term and lead to a longer recovery from a recession,” said Powell.  

The biggest hit may not be when it comes to shopping splurges or shopping for a place to live. Experts say young adults are dealing with the adjustment on a psychological level.

“I think for that particular population, it’s really hard because most of them are on the brink of independence or have been independent as young adults,” said Katy Sahm, a licensed clinical social worker with Indiana Health Group. 

Sahm has seen patients in their 20s in this situation before, saying it causes elevated anxiety and depression levels for some, while it triggers others to experience unfamiliar emotions.

“They don’t know what to do about it. They’re kind of in a state of shock,” said Sahm.

The first thing Sahm does is validate the feelings, reminding struggling young adults to keep lines of communication open with friends and family members. While it may seem simple, focusing on the positives can make a difference.

“No shame, absolutely not. Focus on what you can do and what you can control and where you’re moving ahead to,” said Sahm, who also recommends limiting time on social media as it can increase anxiety and/or depression.

While moving back home may not be the first choice for many, it can be seen as a minor sidestep in the plan.

Riner is now working a full-time job and is grateful to be healthy and have a place to call home.

“No matter what happens, it’s going to be okay, and we’re going to get through the pandemic, and things will be different in a year, hopefully,” she said.

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