The "Never Leave Home" Epidemic

I’m eighteen years old (almost nineteen!). I’m enrolled in full-time Community College. I was homeschool for a majority of my education, and I live in Texas. And yes, like many youth of my generation, I still live with my parents and do not have a solid plan for moving out. 

Apparently, this is an international phenomenon; kids are not leaving home when they graduate high school like they used to. Now, kids are staying with their parents into their twenties, and some even into their thirties. They are nicknamed “boomerang” kids, because parents send them off (to get married or to attend college) but they come back. Why does this happen? Several reasons. Here are the ones that are more applicable to myself:

 1. “Say No To Debt”

The cost of college tuition has been gradually rising since the 1970’s. As of 2014, college tuition has grown more than the cost of medical care, shelter, food, and other life necessities (Bloomberg). This is only partially due to inflation, but mostly caused by state budget cuts in education nationwide. With more students needing more funds, scholarships, grants, and other financial aid, aid has become more limited. The only option for teens who want a degree is a student loan, unless they are in a very low socio-economic bracket or their family pays for most of it. After seeing our parents and older family struggle to pay off debts, young people today don’t want anything to do with it. We understand more and more about how debt is bad every year, and school loans are just not worth it to many students.

For many, working and going to school is impossible, especially if you want to make great grades. A full-time job might pay for school, but how much are you really learning if you are working most of the time?

Teenagers are becoming smarter with their money. Even if school is a wise investment, any unsure investment or debt is frightening.

 2. The Rarity of Marrying Young

Over the past century, as Women’s Rights became a large issue, women’s independence has been a growing concern when it comes to leaving home. In the past, women would leave the nest when they get married; not sooner, unless they were living with a relative or, sometimes, attending school. Moving out meant that you were marrying someone who would take care of you and would take financial responsibility for you, or that you would have a lifelong roommate to share your expenses with. This makes moving out of your parents home sensible: you want independence and you have a partner that will provide for you.

However, with the rise of bad marriages and divorce rates, young people are hesitating and waiting much longer to get married. They want to be sure they’ve found “Mr. & Mrs. Right,” because they don’t want their marriage to end in divorce. Our generation has seen tons of bad marriages, and many youth today were victims of divorced parents as children. They don’t want that to happen to them.

In addition to fear of marriage, young women now believe that they can and should make their career a priority in addition to a home life. Where traditionally, women would do “women’s work,” which covered running a household, and men would do “men’s work,” which meant bringing home a paycheck and little else. These roles are disintegrating, making “family life” unpredictable for many youth. Activists such as Sheryl Sandberg encourage girls to look into science-, technology-, and math-centered careers instead of diving 100% into family. As women push themselves to go further in their careers, they see less need for a family. We picture success as a powerful female CEO, or an authoritative female lawyer, so we fling ourselves wholeheartedly into our career. However, this career may not be our strong suit, or what makes us truly happy.

This trend away from marriage has caused many young women to avoid moving out because they are waiting for “Mr. Right,” or they are going to school from home in order to save money. The old-fashioned model of getting married at age 18 is no longer the standard, but the exception. This makes leaving home more difficult for most girls.

3. Fear of Economic Stability

Since 2008, when the stock market and real estate bubble burst, many families were slimed. After seeing our friends, family, parents, siblings, etc., struggle with lay-offs, devalued stocks and bad loans, we are all pretty scared. If we can’t trust a bank, who can we trust? If we can’t invest in property, what can we invest in?

We definitely don’t want to trust our money, education, or career to someone that isn’t stable and trustworthy. We are afraid that if we go to school for several years, we will graduate with a couple of school loans and suddenly, there won’t be any available jobs for us. We will be forced to go back home, or become homeless. Many don’t feel like we can trust any of these large corporations, and this fear is keeping us from moving out. When I think of moving out, I think: Moving out to what? Will there be a good job on the other side?

 4. Is a Degree Worth it?

As the proportion of people with degrees has increased over the last 50 years, the job market has changed. Every degree is less valuable– everyone has one! It is no longer the differentiating line on a resume, it is a standard. Now, employers are looking further than just a degree and GPA. They want years of experience in the field, an extensive portfolio of high-quality work, or a year-long work-study in a foreign country. Plus, they always prefer bilinguals. Many companies, especially in the non-science, -technology, and -math fields, have begun to overlook degrees altogether, and tend to favor internships, work-studies, and experience over degrees. The bar is just that much higher.

That being said, what are young people supposed to do in the meantime? If we don’t need a degree, then we need to get experience. If you are looking to be a store manager, you have to start at entry-level minimum wage. Young people today are skipping school and getting an entry-level position close to home. They can’t afford to live alone on minimum wage, and are just compiling a resume for some future job.

 5. The Job Expectations Are Changing

Lastly, today’s employers are expecting much more. With the demand for efficiency, innovation, creativity, and intense productivity, most well-paying jobs can only be done by extremely talented people. This kind of talent doesn’t come from a degree or experience: some people make the cut, and most don’t. There are not enough “good, easy jobs” that pay enough to survive. “Middle class” jobs are separating into “good” and “bad.” I’m not looking for an easy way out, but everyone needs a job that they can do, but that won’t trample their other priorities in life. The fact that jobs are not as plentiful, and that expectations are rising, means that jobs are more difficult to land. Thus, many young adults are working at the grocery store, doing landscaping, or babysitting: not enough to pay the bills.

These are not “excuses” for wanting to stay at home, they are all perfectly good reasons. I don’t believe that our generation is spoiled and trying to take advantage of parents, although there are plenty of exceptions. The primary reason is fear of the future, and the inability to make things work out. With the modern age, nothing is for sure. That instability, the sand shifting beneath our feet, is why this has become a popular trend. We don’t have the answers, so the best thing to do is stay at home.


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