Parents subsidize 'kidadults'

More parents are subsidizing their “kidadults” through their 20s and longer, reports the Arizona Republic.

Research from the University of Michigan indicates that 56 percent of young adults are living a life of quasi-independence. They have jobs and their own homes but they still get help from their parents when the bills come in.

Young people are staying in school longer, then struggling to find jobs, earn a living and pay off college loans. They’re marrying later and having children later than earlier generations. And they’ve got “helicopter parents.”

“Parents want to have more control, they want to be involved, and in general young people welcome it,” said Patricia Somers, an associate professor of education at the University of Texas-Austin who studies family dynamics.

The recession has made it harder for young people to “launch.” From 2006 to 2010, the employment rate for 18- to 29-year-olds fell by nine points,  reports the Pew Research Center. Employment held steady or rose slightly for those 30 to 64 years old. Young workers are earning less.

The annual earnings of all full-time workers ages 25 to 34 have decreased since 1980, when adjusted for inflation, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

While college graduates earn more and are more likely to be employed, their debt load is increasing: In 1993, the average graduate owed $9,297; by 2008, the average debt was $23,118.

Update: A Brookings study on The Long and Twisting Road to Adulthood estimates that parents spend 10 percent of their income “helping their children begin adult lives.” The percentage of 25-year-olds living independently dropped sharply from the 1970s to the turn of the 21st century.

About Joanne


  1. The innate drives for independence to the point of rebelliousness, to act on one’s own initiative, and to form close bonds with peers seem to me to peak in the mid-teens. By suppressing these urges until the mid-twenties when the feeling has largely passed, what other result would anyone expect?

  2. That isn’t the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, but I’m a teacher.

  3. CarolineSF says:

    This is what everyone said about my generation — that we refused to grow up. I was born in 1954, smack in the middle of the Baby Boom. Does the Brookings study now show that we were mature, independent and fully launched on adult lives and careers right on schedule? What are they smoking over at Brookings? (Hmm, possibly the substances that my generation was smoking during the ’70s, although the Brookings folks seem to think we were actually going to the office in suits and ties?)

  4. GoogleMaster says:

    Part of the problem is that so-called middle-class kids have been treated to a life of everything they ever wanted, cell phones with unlimited talk and text, plenty of new clothes, eating out all the time, TV and computer in every bedroom, etc. And when they graduate from college, they expect to start out at the same standard of living as that at which they lived with their parents. Realistically, though, they need to expect to start at the bottom and work their way up. Unfortunately, there has been some expectation/entitlement creep, so even colleges are having to upscale the dorms outrageously to avoid offending the widdle preciouses. Really, whatever happened to renting a 3-4 bedroom house with a bunch of friends for a year or two after graduation? That’s what we did in the Eighties. Heaven forbid the millennials should have to share a living space!

  5. GoogleMaster says:

    Oh hey, I forgot: YOU KIDS GET OFFA MY LAWN! 😉

  6. CarolineSF says:

    What colleges have scaled up dorms to avoid offending the widdle preciouses, GoogleMaster?

    I know it’s fun to pontificate away, but don’t forget to check in with Planet Earth. My son goes to Oberlin and lives in a dorm that is certainly as funky and bare-bones as it was when my stepbrother went there in the ’70s, and no colleges that we have looked at or heard of during my son’s college search have scaled up dorms to avoid offending the widdle preciouses. And both my kids’ idea of nirvana would be renting a 3-4 bedroom house with a bunch of friends for a year or two after graduation.

    (And by the way — I got a beater car at age 16, in 1970, and my husband got a new car for his 16th birthday, in 1967 — while my kids, at 16 and 19, don’t even drive, since we can’t afford the insurance if they get their licenses.)

    In any case, whether kids are more materially privileged (they may well be in the ‘burbs, though our city kids live in small spaces and, as noted, take Muni and BART), that isn’t the same as whether they launch mature adult lives later than the previous generations.

  7. SuperSub says:

    I remember helping my parents move my older siblings into their college dorms back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I moved into my own dorm in the late 90’s. I helped my then gf, now wife, move into her dorm in the early 00’s.

    I have seen multiple college dorms and some of them multiple times through the past 20 years, and I can definitely say that the quality of life on campus has improved significantly.

    While the dorm rooms haven’t changed too much, the included full service gyms with trainers at the colleges put my $20 a month gym to shame. The televisions in the common rooms put the one I am sitting in front of too shame. The new dining halls put out fare that beats anything that I ever ate in school. I can just remember the triple-layer chocolate cakes that I would taste while visiting my wife.

    And we wonder why 1 – colleges cost so much, and 2 – why students are unwilling to go it on their own after graduation when it would likely mean “roughing it.”

  8. superdestroyer says:

    Some of this comes from daughters being more ambitious than sons and that most entry level jobs for ambitious students are in large urban areas that have high costs of living.

    Parents are not going to let their daughters live in a place in NYC, DC, LA, SF that is affordable for entry level pay. There is also issues such as car insurance, health insurance, etc

    Look at how the Democrats put a huge entitlement for the elite whites in the U.S. by extending health coverage for children up to 27 years of age.

  9. CarolineSF says:

    I’ll agree on the TVs, though the giant ones are the norm these days — in all our friends’ homes, though not in ours. But providing fresher, healthier, generally better food and gyms doesn’t really qualify as pampering the widdle preciouses in an age where obesity is the biggest threat to our nation’s health and even national security. It’s true, though, that for example Oberlin’s dining hall has an excellent salad bar and fruit bar with the names of the local farmers who provide the produce posted above. That’s considered a benefit to the environment, to the local economy and to students’ health, so I would question whether pampering the widdle preciouses is on the list of justirications for that improvement. (And, realistically, my own Oberlin student would just as soon live on stale pizza and beer…)

  10. ‘Coddling’ might be a better word than ‘pampering’. In other words, luxury is not at issue so much as being sheltered or insulated from the way things work in real life. That’s what I read into GoogleMaster’s comments, and what I was trying to get at earlier. Extending social childhood by several years past the end of biological childhood, in other words. But people are hardwired to mature at a certain rate. It’s hard to imagine a system of socialization powerful enough to suppress this that would be entirely free of side-effects. Institutionalized, passive young adults, for example, who think that if they do ‘X’ they are entitled to ‘Y’.

    Although in fairness to the young adults, I don’t even know what “starting at the bottom” means any more. I doubt that they do either.

  11. GoogleMaster says:

    I live about a mile from my alma mater, my spouse works there, and I am still somewhat involved with campus activities some ~25 years after graduation.

    Food: In the 1980s, there was only one meal plan, 19 meals/week, and if you lived on campus, it was mandatory. Food for the ~2000 on-campus undergrads was cooked in one central kitchen location and placed on trucks to be sent to the individual residential buildings to be warmed up and served by “kitchen ladies”. If you didn’t like what was being served, you didn’t eat. Today, the students have their choices of fresh veggies, sushi, steak ‘n’ potatoes, prepared on-site by “chefs”.

    Housing: In the 1980s, we lived five to a four-person dorm room, sharing a double bathroom with seven or eight other people, or we lived in doubles and triples and walked down the hall to sht, shower, and shave in the communal bathrooms. Today, the new residential buildings are being built with individual bathroom pods in each single or double room.

    Classes: In the 1980s, if you overslept through an 8:00 or 9:00 class, tough luck. You were on your own finding a friend who would let you copy his notes. Today, the notes are on Blackboard, so you don’t even have to take notes for yourself.

    Over the past 25 years I’ve watched the campus buildings get fancier and fancier. My university wasn’t much into sports, then, but has since revamped the baseball stadium, the basketball arena, and the rec center (twice) and pool. I’m sure the football stadium would be next, if anyone could think of a justification.

    Re “starting at the bottom”, I was really thinking about housing. It used to be that no one expected to be able to buy a house shortly after graduation, or even shortly after getting married. There was nothing wrong with renting, even sharing a place with friends while you saved up money for a downpayment. Now we read that parents are purchasing condos for their college-aged or graduating “children”, or giving them the money for the downpayment.

    I suspect that the 1970s and 1980s will turn out to be the anomaly, though, because in the 1940s I think people lived with their parents until they got married.

  12. The 1970s was where the housing market really started to go nuts. Before that I think all it took was a median wage and a down payment. My parents bought their first home in their early 20s, but that was in the 1950s, and it was probably not much more than a thousand square feet. Pretty quaint by today’s standards.

    I suppose a small two-bedroom condo would still be comparable. But population growth and tax policy have driven prices beyond reach for young wage earners, let alone single-income families.