For jobless adult children, there's no place like home

The Charlotte ObserverMay 23, 2011 

Brian Griffith was earning six figures before he lost his job when his company downsized. Now, he lives with his parents, pitching in on chores in his childhood home.

A growing number of adults, from recent graduates in a fruitless job hunt to experienced workers laid off during the recession, are doing the same in search of a stronger economic foothold. The trend has been building for years, part of a culture shift in which children are waiting longer to leave the nest, but it's intensified since the downturn cast thousands out of work or into part-time jobs with little pay.

About 4.2 million workers ages 20 to 29 were unemployed last year, nearly double the number in 2007, before the recession began. Countless others traded full-time jobs for part-time or temporary work or accepted lower-paying positions.

A recent U.S. Census Bureau report found moving home "is a strategy employed by less advantaged individuals... to handle economic uncertainty and to make ends meet during times of economic strain" - and that it's happening more often.

The number of adult children living with their parents increased by 1.2 million from 2008 to 2010, a gain of about 5 percent, the report found.

Statistics from AARP corroborate the trend. In a November 2010 survey, 25 percent of households headed by someone 45 to 64 years old reported an adult child living in the house. That's up from 12 percent in November 2009.

Nearly one in five of those households said the child returned in the last six months.

"When young adults move home, it protects them economically," said Kathleen Harris, a sociology professor at UNC Chapel Hill and director of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which has examined the issue. "They're less likely to have the material hardships of not having a phone or having their utilities turned off."

It's more likely for young adults to move in with their parents for economic reasons these days than in years past, partly because people are waiting longer to marry, she said.

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