Daily Blog Email
More Millennials live with their parents than ever before. Is this a case of shirking responsibility or adapting to reality?
On Tuesday, Pew Research Center released data on the living arrangements of young people in the United States, and for the first time, more Millennials are living with their parents than in any other kind of living arrangement. Here are the key stats:
So, it’s only by about half of a percentage point, but more Millennials live with their parents than in any other kind of living arrangement. This is remarkable, worthy of note, and must grab the attention of the local church.
We must ask the question, “Why?” “Why are young people living with their parents more than they ever have in the past?”
Pastors and church leaders, especially in more Reformed and conservative theological communities, will be faced with the temptation to deride young people (particularly young men) for living with their parents beyond the age of 18 (or at least beyond the college years).
I wrote back in 2014, before Driscoll was deposed:
Over the last few years, young pastors have followed the lead of guys like Mark Driscoll, yelling at college guys to grow up, move out of their parents’ basement, provide for themselves, get a wife, and otherwise. Driscoll often refers to guys who live with their parents as, “boys who can shave,” citing the common name for the phenomenon, “Peter Pan Syndrome.”
It frustrates me when pastors like Driscoll and others make passing comments in sermons or blog posts about how young men who live with their parents are less-manly or less-Christian than other men. As if it is somehow more Christlike to pay for your own meals and apartment the second you graduate from college.
This issue hits close to home with me. I graduated college in January of 2013 and have a number of friends who live with their parents. These friends of mine certainly are not bums.
For example, one of my 24-year-old friends lives with his parents. He also likes to play video games. He does not have a girlfriend. But, he does have a full time job that aligns with his degree and a significant amount of student loan debt.
Because this friend is only one of many friends of mine living with their parents, I sometimes cringe when I hear pastors talking down to guys like this. It hurts me to see my friends be treated as if they are immature by no measure other than their living situation.
It breaks my heart when pastors and church leaders give in to the temptation to joke about the immaturity of young people who live with their parents. We must not give in to this temptation. Whether or not young people live with their parents out of laziness or necessity is of no matter—we must observe a posture of love before we observe a posture of derision.
So, then, the question remains: “Why are Millennials living with their parents more than in any other living arrangement?” Here are three possible factors:
Really, marriage in general is out of style among Millennials. Many Millennials are not married, and many don’t plan to be married.
I reached out to Richard Fry, Senior Researcher at Pew and author of this study. He said that of the three reasons listed here (marriage, jobs, and money), the lack of marriage, or the presence of “singledom” is the primary factor. When I asked him which factor is most influential in Millennials living at home, he said to me:
The increase in young adults living at home predates the Great Recession. Each decade since 1960 (with the exception of the 1990s) has seen an increase in young adults living at home…
It has been a slow steady increase since 1960 with an acceleration since 2008 and the start of the Great Recession. As far as factors, at least in a superficial sense, the entire increase in young adult living at home since 1960 can be explained by the decline in young adults marrying.
One constant over the entire 130 years is that very few married young adults live with their parent(s). Young married couples do not want to live with mom and dad. It was true in 1880 and it is true in 2014. I presume it is because they value their privacy and independence. In any event, it is singles who live with mom and/or dad. More young adults are living at home because we simply have a lot more singles than we used to. In 1960 more than 60% of young adults were married. In 2014 less than one third of young adults were married. With the rise of singledom we simply have more young adults in a demographic where living with a parent is much more prevalent.
In 2014, when Pew released their massive “Millennials in Adulthood” study, Millennials were shown to be married less than any generation that came before them when they were the same age Millennials are now. Here’s a graph:
Millennials aren’t getting married now, and perhaps not ever, and that’s just the reality of it. The local church needs to recognize this and react in an appropriate way. Pastors and church leaders must ask questions like:
“Why aren’t the young people in our community getting married?”
“What needs do young, unmarried Millennials have?”
“What philosophies or feelings undergird their unwillingness to settle down with a spouse and start a family?”
When the leadership of the local church asks these questions, it will be better equipped to serve the people around it.
The United States has slowly, but progressively, risen from the ashes of the Great Recession. The economy is recovering, but many Millennials entering the workforce are unable to find work.
This part is fascinating to me because the employment rate is dropping, and new jobs are being created. Yet, we still hear of Millennials not being able to find jobs. The problem is, as many newly-minted college graduates are discovering, many of the jobs being created simply are not for college graduates, or at least they shouldn’t be. As Lam Thuy Vo and Josh Zumbrun explain the the Real Time Economics column of The Wall Street Journal:
One refrain we hear often from readers of Real Time Economics is that the majority of jobs employers are creating are — in their words — not good, part time, temporary or seasonal minimum-wage positions offering scant benefits, mostly in the service sector.
“Nobody could live on just one of these jobs,” J. Thomas Gaffney wrote in a Facebook comment in March. “It’s not the quantity of jobs that matters, it’s the quality, and these jobs are not quality jobs that pay a living wage or provide decent benefits.”
Mr. Gaffney’s comments, and others like it, pose a difficult question: How do you measure the quality of all the jobs the U.S. added and lost in a given month?
The top line figure from the employment report masks all sorts of variation. Millions of Americans quit or are laid off each month, while millions are hired to new jobs. The monthly number of jobs created is the net total of all that underlying change. Some industries are losing jobs, others are gaining. Even within industries, some firms will be growing and some shrinking every month. Some jobs may only be a few hours a week, or have very low wages; others pay very well.
Check out this list from that article that is searchable in the article if you visit it:
Outside of the tech industry, which likely comprises many of the jobs in the “Other information services” category, most of the jobs being created don’t pay much at all.
Millennials may be able to find “jobs,” but not jobs that can support a house payment or maybe even apartment rent.
That brings us to the third and final problems many Millennials face: the scarcity of money. Naturally, this hindrance is intimately tied with the second one: the lack of well-paying jobs available to all of the Millennials graduating college these days. A lot of Millennials just have very little money, often because of crippling student loan debt. Check out this graph:
Over half of Millennials have less than one thousand dollars in savings. That means that if a one thousand dollar expense came up, approximately 52% of Millennials couldn’t pay it.
A new study published by the Federal Reserve this week called the “Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. households in 2015,” noted this, according to the L.A. Times, “The Fed’s study found that 46% of adults either could not cover a $400 emergency expense or would have to sell something or borrow money to do so. Similarly, 46% of respondents who had a major medical cost last year said they have debt from that expense.”
Many Millennials cannot afford rent, and even fewer can afford a down payment on a house. Because they are not married and do not have a combined income with a spouse, or even a cohabiter, paying rent can be difficult. So, they’re living with their parents.
The local church must recognize these realities and react to them. We must not waste energy complaining about the laziness of Millennials.