Regardless of the reasons, the living-at-home phenomenon seems to be growing as an accepted part of popular culture. The dating site Match.com offers tips on maintaining a social life while living at home with an article titled, “Dating at Mom and Dad’s House.”
Other sites offer T-shirts, in both newborn and grown-up sizes, that say, “I still live with my parents.” Blog posts from millennials discussing living at home abound.
An analysis of census data by the Pew Research Center has found that 18- to 34-year-olds are less likely to be living apart from family members than they were even during the depths of the recent recession, the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.
“Young adults were the age group that was hardest hit by the Great Recession,” said Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew. “They’re not fully healed from the damages.”
In 2010, according to the study, 69 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds lived independently. During the first four months of this year, just 67 percent of that same age group was living independently. From 2010 to April 2015, the share of young adults living in their parents’ homes has increased to 26 percent from 24 percent, the study said.
In terms of sheer numbers, there are more young adults today than when the recession hit: The 18- to 34-year-old population has grown by nearly three million since 2007. But the number of them heading their own households has not increased, the study said.
In the meantime, the national unemployment rate for young adults declined to 7.7 percent in the first four months of this year, down from 12.4 percent in 2010. While people with college degrees are more inclined to secure higher-paying jobs, the study found that even college-educated young adults are more likely to live with their families today than in 2010.
Many housing analysts have been counting on young people to help lift the still-restrained housing market by buying their own condos or houses, moving out of rental apartments or their family home.
Homeownership in America is at its lowest point since 1967, at 63.4 percent, according to government data reported this week. Home sales are clearly on the rebound, but they remain lower than before the recession despite the increased population. One of the main reasons is that not as many people are entering the pipeline as first-time home buyers.
“We need the millennials to start leaving their parents’ homes and start out on their own for the housing market to normalize,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “This is going to be a problem if it continues.”
Mr. Zandi said he was optimistic that young adults will set out on their own eventually and noted that his analysis of other sets of data show this slowly starting to happen. “My sense is that millennials are forming households,” he said, “but this is going almost entirely into rentals.”
But rents are rising, particularly in popular cities like San Francisco, Denver and New York, and there are fewer apartments on the market. Vacancy rates recently hit their lowest level in 30 years.
For young people moving into apartments, these higher costs limit spending elsewhere and make it harder to save for a down payment for a future home.
From 2003 to 2013, the share of renters 25 to 34 who had so-called cost burdens — meaning they spent more than 30 percent of their incomes on housing — increased to 46 percent from 40 percent, according to a report released last month by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard. The share that spent more than half their income on housing also increased, to 23 percent from 19 percent.
During roughly the same period, the share of renters in that same age group with student loan debt jumped to 41 percent in 2013 from 30 percent in 2004, with the average amount of debt up 50 percent, to $30,700, the Harvard report said.
Some economists say that higher student debt loads may be partly to blame for so many young adults living at home. A staff report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in November concluded: “A substantial portion of the persistent increase in co-residence with parents among recent youth cohorts can be explained by increasing student debt balances.”
The Pew study identified another group finding it hard to leave home: people 25 to 34 without any formal education beyond high school. They may not have heavy student debts but they are also the ones facing the greatest difficulties in the job market.