Millennials Happy To Stay With Mom And Dad

More people in their late 20s are living at home with Mom and Dad than any previous generation. In a column for Bloomberg News, Zara Kessler argues that faced with a dismal economy, today's 20-somethings are redefining success in adulthood. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Kessler about the cultural shift.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We wondered if some of the numbers in recent jobs reports might reflect a finding in a Department of Education study that came out in January, about a group of high school students they began to study 12 years ago. That group of students is now pushing 30, and 23 percent are living with their parents. A Pew national study puts the percentage of that generation - called millennials - who live with their parents even higher.

Zara Kessler has written about this circumstance among members of her generation, for Bloomberg View. She joins us from our studios in New York. Thanks so much for being with us.

ZARA KESSLER: Thank you very much.

SIMON: Is it as simple as they can't get full-time jobs?

KESSLER: I think there are a variety of factors. The Pew analysis of the census data looked at both a decrease in the ability to get employed, but also an increase in education and also, a decrease in people getting married as young. But I think, you know, if you look at this change over the last few years, obviously the impact of the recession has been a huge factor in this sense of people being older and still living at home.

SIMON: And what are some of the implications, as you see it, of what might be a quarter of a generation living like this?

KESSLER: I think it raises a lot of questions about what adulthood will mean for our generation and specifically, for this portion of our generation that kind of graduated or entered the beginnings of adulthood into the recession. Will we want the same things as our parents had, in terms of the markers of success and the markers of adulthood; and will we be able to get those, or will the financial constraints and the long-term effects of having grown up and having graduated into this economic circumstance impact us for our whole lives and not allow us to get those things?

SIMON: And this must, obviously, concern people who are worried about the economy. Does this mean with more people living at home in your generation - not getting married, they're not buying houses, they're not getting cars?

KESSLER: Right. That is the case. And I think the big question of that opens up - and it's relevant to people in our generation who want to try to figure out what the rest of our lives are going to be like, and also to people who are trying to sell us goods and services, and to policymakers - is, are we delayed in this path toward adulthood and are we going to take the same path? Or have we just been stalled altogether and we're not going to get to the same place? Or do we not even want to get to the same place?

You also have to take into consideration the huge advances in technological progress and efficiency, and maybe our smartphone is more relevant to us than a car.

SIMON: I don't mean to put you on the spot, Ms. Kessler, but you're 23, right?

KESSLER: Yes.

SIMON: What do you think the implications are for you?

KESSLER: I think that I, like many other millennials - as we've seen in studies - kind of have an optimistic point of view about all this. I think it's scary. There are long-term effects to graduating into a recession in terms of earnings, etc. But if you look at our generation, kind of the things that have already stood out are people trying to change things, to tinker with things, to create that new app that's going to go viral, or that video.

And so I think that there's a sense of creativity. And part of that is coming from the fact that we might not have the same economic resources, but that we're going to find a way to still do great things and to lead lives that are very fulfilling.

SIMON: So as a lot of Americans - to paint very broad strokes - used to dream about graduating school, getting a job and moving away from their parents, now people of your generation graduate from school, keep living with their parents, but dream about inventing the app that will let them move out?

KESSLER: Because of these large number of people living at home, I think that the stigma attached to living with your parents really is not what it maybe used to be. I'm not sure people aspire to live at home, but some of these circumstances have been forced upon us based on when we were born, and based on when we graduated. We can't do anything about that, so we're going to have to look for new ways to innovate and to find success within the realm of things that we're capable of doing.

SIMON: Zara Kessler, an editor for Bloomberg View, thanks for being with us.

KESSLER: Thank you very much.

Copyright © 2014 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.