Living on your own is coming later in life for young Americans

Younger Americans are waiting longer to leave home and strike out on their own. While as of 2000 most young adults became independent by the time they were 23, today most don’t make that leap until they’re 26, according to an analysis released this week by Zillow. 

In costlier metros such as Los Angeles, Miami and New York, meanwhile, most stick with their parents or roommates until they’re pushing 30, the online real estate firm found. 

“As economists we can point to very real changes in household budgets that make the classic tactics of sticking with mom and dad or extending those college roommate years past graduation more appealing,” Skylar Olsen, director of economic research at Zillow said in a news release. “As the costs of life’s basics outpace incomes, parents that offer housing after their children’s schooling has ended can provide breathing space, allowing the next generation to begin paying off substantial college debt.”

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Still, the fact that more young people are pursuing college degrees these days and that many are shouldering high levels of student debt does not completely explain the findings, Zillow noted. People with high school educations who used to live on their own at roughly the same rate as their college-educated peers are now less likely to do so, according to its analysis. 

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More unsettling, perhaps, is that the shift doesn’t just have people in their 20s and 30s delaying life on their own — a smaller share of adults of all ages were living independently in 2017 than in 1980, according to Zillow. In 2017, 81% of 40-year-olds lived independently, down from 91% in 1980. 

The Zillow analysis jibes with Census data that show young Americans are staying at home and in school longer, as well as starting families later. In 1976, nearly half of young adults had entered the workforce, left their parents’ home, gotten married and become a parent,  the bureau found. By 2016, just 24% had reached those traditional milestones of adulthood. In fact, living with parent was the most standard arrangement for 18- to 34-year-olds, it said. 

A Pew Research Center analysis of Census data echoed the trend. In 2016, Pew found 15% of those 25- to 35-years-old lived with their parents, compared to 10% in 2000 or the 8% of the age group in 1964.

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