Are we blaming the economic downturn for something it didn’t cause?

by Ryan Streeter on March 16, 2012. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

My first thought upon reading this Pew report on how young adults who’ve moved back home with their parents are satisfied is: “yeah, uh, but are mom and dad satisfied?” The report says that young adults who moved home are just fine with their living arrangement. Pew should have surveyed the parents, too.

The trend over time looks like this:

The trend was clearly underway before the latest financial downturn, which of course made it worse (like it did with pretty much every negative trend). But we can’t blame the Great Recession for the overall trajectory. For some reason, young adults are spending more time at home than in the past.

Here’s an interesting line from the full report:

There is no clear socio-economic pattern to this. Parents with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more are just as likely as those with incomes under $30,000 to say their adult child has moved back home because of economic conditions

Anecdotally, I run across people regularly whose educational and socioeconomic background should mean that their kids are off on their own doing well – but whose kids instead are living at home “figuring things out.”

This is why, along with family formation and enterprise, I include “habits of independence” as one of the key elements of a culture of aspiration necessary┬áto sustain America’s growth and prosperity into the future. If we have too many young adults not moving out and forming new households, we’ll experience both a mid-term and long-term economic effect that we won’t want. I most recently wrote about that here.