It’s Not the Bad Economy, It’s Student Debt Forcing Students To Move Back in With Their Parents

By Annie Wood
This post first appeared on

This article is part of Generation Progress’s campaign on Student Debt. Check out more reporting, research, and actions on Student Debt →

Millennials have taken on a new, not-so-awesome nickname: the Boomerang Kids. Get it? Because they just won’t leave? Twenty-somethings are back under their parents’ roofs at record numbers, and these days, it is not limited to the summer after graduation, or even a year post-graduation day. Many adults are living with their parents well into their twenties, or beyond.

As if moving back to the nest wasn’t already less-than-ideal, Millennials are constantly asked to explain themselves. The most common narratives includes the difficulty of finding a job, combined with massive student loan debts, leaving paying rent and other bills out of the picture.

As easy as it is to blame the back-at-home woes on the economy, a new study shows that the more significant factor in the recent trend of moving back home is actually student loan debt.

new study by a duo of Federal Reserve Board economists examined credit agency data on more than 1.8 million young adults, and found an astounding new pattern: In the past decade, the percentage of 18- to 31-year-olds who live with their parents grew at an “unprecedented” speed, hitting about 36 percent.

The researchers, Lisa Dettling and Joanne Hsu, looked at indebtedness, trends in the economy, and the frequency with which young adults decided to “co-reside” with their parents again.

They found that the rise of student loan debt–which has recently surpassed $1.2 trillion–could possibly explain the increase in twenty-somethings moving back home. The health of the economy, measured by unemployment rates, could have explained the trend a bit more during the recession, specifically during 2008 and 2009, but the “bad economy” explanation doesn’t really work when looking at the whole nine-year time frame.

It seems silly to minimize the impact of the recession as a main factor in young adults moving back home. In fact, Pew noted that many of the young adults choosing to co-reside with their parents during this time frame never went to college.

However, the new report from Dettling and Hsu aligns with other research being done on adults moving in with their parents. New research from the Census Bureau drew the conclusion that the “Great Recession” wasn’t really that special as far as recessions go. That is, we can’t blame all our problems on the recession, and certainly cannot explain this pattern by simply citing the recession.

Even with emerging research, it is still too soon to fully understand and assess the origins of the “boomerang kids.” However, the figures speak for themselves: 40 million Americans have student loans, owing an average of $29,400, leading to monthly payments in the hundred to couple-hundred dollar range. When it comes to bills, student loan payments, rent, and other costs of living, something has got to give. For many young Americans, it appears, the burden of debt from higher education means it is time to head back to the nest.

Annie Wood is a Student Debt Reporter at Generation Progress. Follow her on Twitter @anniewood28.

Connect With Us

Author Information