Young adults moving back home with parents at historical rate


INDIANAPOLIS — Before the pandemic, young adults were busy working, studying and living on their own. Then the pandemic hit, and young adults were hit hard. 

According to Pew Research, more than a quarter of young adult lost their job from February to May.

From the West Coast to the Midwest, moving back to Broad Ripple wasn’t part of the plan for Megan Riner.

“It was just time to go,” said Megan Riner, who moved back home.

Riner, 25, was working in Portland, Oregon when the pandemic closed down the country. She was worried about her job and her mental health. Over the summer, the pandemic pushed her to make the decision to drive 2,000 miles and move back home.

“I was so scared of coming home and having to explain myself and be like, ‘I still live at my mom’s house.'”

Millions of young adults across the country are doing the same thing. The majority of 18 to 29-year-olds are living with their parents. It’s been decades since we’ve seen this type of situation.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, 48% of young adults lived at home. Now in 2020, we’ve surpassed that historical statistic. According to the Pew Research Center, 2.6 million adults made the move back home between February and September of this year.

“When all of a sudden, when they’re faced with a lot of job insecurity, economic insecurity from the pandemic, it’s a logical decision to move back home,” said Phillip Powell, associate dean of academic programs at IU Kelley School of Business.

Powell knows that the impact this transition is having is more than just adding an extra person to a household.

“When young adults move back in with their parents, that means there’s less demand for residential real estate, whether it’s rental properties or starter homes, so that slows down your housing markets,” explained Powell.

Beyond the housing market, Americans in their 20s hold a lot of spending power, and companies count on that.

“If they’re back home, that means they’re saving the money because they’re scared, or they don’t have the money because they’re not getting it from a paycheck. That could slow the economy down long term and lead to a longer recovery from a recession,” said Powell.  

The biggest hit may not be when it comes to shopping splurges or shopping for a place to live. Experts feel that young adults dealing with the adjustment on a psychological level.

“I think for that particular population it’s really hard because most of them are on the brink of independence or have been independent as young adults,” said Katy Sahm, a licensed clinical social worker with Indiana Health Group. 

Sahm has seen patients in their 20s in this very situation. It’s elevated anxiety and depression levels for some and triggered others to experience emotions they’ve never had before.

“They don’t know what to do about it. They’re kind of in a state of shock,” said Sahm.

The first thing Sahm does is validate the feelings, reminding struggling young adults to keep lines of communication open with friends and family members. While it may seem simple, focusing on the positives can make a difference.

“No shame, absolutely not. Focus on what you can do and what you can control and where you’re moving ahead to,” said Sahm.

Moving back home may be a minor sidestep in the plan. Riner is now working a full-time job and is grateful to be healthy and have a place to call home.

“No matter what happens, it’s going to be okay, and we’re going to get through the pandemic, and things will be different in a year, hopefully.”

Sahm also recommends young adults limit their time on social media as it can increase your anxiety and/or depression.

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