Culture shift sends young adults in Montgomery County home
Census: 53 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds lived with parents in 2010
Daniel Ignacio, a pre-law student at American University from Germantown, is part of a growing nationwide population of adults who are choosing to live with their parents into their late 20s and early 30s, according to recently-released census data.
Montgomery County planning officials believe the trend may be occurring locally, too, given a recent spike in the number of adults in their 20s and 30s living in the county, an increasing average household size and the area's high cost of living.
Ignacio works two jobs to help pay his tuition and often forgoes late nights with college friends, opting for steady meals and the more comfortable surroundings of his childhood home.
"Before, I was eating Easy Mac, like, every day," the 21-year-old Germantown resident said.
The trend is one that at least one report says reflects not only a struggling economy and high cost of living, but a shift in culture, in which young adults are taking longer to gain financial independence from their parents.
Nationwide, about 15.6 million people between the ages of 18 and 24 lived with their parents in 2010, which ranks as the highest percentage since 1997 53 percent according to census data.
An additional 5.5 million people between 25 and 34 lived with parents last year. That number represents 13 percent of the national population of that age group, the highest percentage living with parents recorded in a census report that dates back to 1960.
The high cost of living and housing in Montgomery County could make the area a hotbed for this trend, said Rollin Stanley, director of Montgomery County's Planning Department.
The planning department does not have data to quantify a rising number of young adults living with their parents, but what it does know from statistics that are available about the county's demographics and living expenses supports the national trend, he said.
County planning officials do not have data to quantify a rising number of young adults who are living with their parents in Montgomery County, but they know from available census data on demographics and living arrangements that the local trend appears to follow the national one of more young adults living with their parents.
"We know we have a lot of kids in Montgomery County," Stanley said. "We also know Montgomery County is a very expensive place to find housing and, as a result, a lot of the younger folks can't afford the average median rents alone."
From 2005 through 2009, an average of about 78,530 people between 18 and 24 lived in the county an increase of about 18,000 since 2000, according to the 2000 census and 2005-09 five-year estimates. The average household size also increased throughout the decade, from 2.66 in 2000 to 2.72 between 2005 and 2009.
In addition to economic causes for cohabitation a tough job market, high cost of living and housing fueling this trend, at least one report shows the move home is a sign of economic savvy among young adults.
"It's like young people's strategy," said Yumiko Aratani, an associate research scientist for the National Center for Children in Poverty at Columbia University in New York City. The public policy center researches and promotes low-income families as a part of the university's Mailman School of Public Health.
Living at home might at one point have come with the stigma of lackluster motivation for independence, but now is a sign of young adults making an economic decision that will allow them to live more comfortably, while saving more money, Aratani said.
The center released a report in December that showed that about 55 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds nationwide living at home were pursuing higher education, had a job or were in the military. Forty-six percent of those living with parents were without jobs, were not in school and were not in the military. The report was based on an analysis of the Census Bureau's U.S. Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement, March 2010.
"What we find is people who are connected people who are in jobs, in school those are the ones who are more likely to live with their parents," Aratani said.
The process of growing up is becoming lengthier for Americans, with young adults staying in school longer, marrying later and remaining financially dependent on their parents longer, Aratani said.
In 2009, the median age at first marriage was 25.9 for women and 28.1 for men, about five years older than the median age of first nuptials in 1970, according to census data.
The type of housing people in their 20s and 30s are seeking also is changing and contributing to the trend, Stanley said.
"They're looking for different things," Stanley said. "They're not as interested in large living spaces."
While the home used to be a place to host guests and socialize, now young adults spend time with friends at cafes, restaurants and other public gathering spots, Stanley said.
"The house they live in, or the apartment, is less of a major concern than it was in the past," he said.
Melanie Killen, the associate director of the Center for Children Relationships and Culture at University of Maryland in College Park, cautioned against attaching motivation and reason to census data.
"There could be a lot of reasons why people are doing this," Killen said. More young adults could be living with their parents to care for them or, if they have their own children, to have easy access to child care.
But for at least some young adults in Montgomery County, the move home was strategic.
David Argueta, 20, of Montgomery Village is among those. Argueta left art school in San Francisco when his rent became too expensive. Since last February, he has been living with his parents and taking classes at Montgomery College.
"It's kind of tough," Argueta said. "You're out there and you're independent, then you move back and you have to tell your parents where you're going."
Despite the limited freedom and packed house Argueta's 10-year-old brother and 22-year-old sister, also a student, live at home, too Argueta said he is able to get some of his courses done without having to pay rent. He hopes to return to San Francisco this fall.