Millennials' Most Common Roommates: Their Parents

For the first time in over 130 years, young people are more likely to live with their mom and/or dad than with a partner.

Dean Fosdick / AP

Millennials have been bucking historical trends about where and how young people live: They are buying homes later in life, settling down in romantic partnerships years after previous generations, and migrating, contrary to many popular accounts, away from cities.

In 2014, for the first time in the past 130 years, young adults were slightly more likely to live at home, with their parents, than with a romantic partner, according to a new report.

The report, an analysis of U.S. Census data published by the Pew Research Center, compares the percentage of Millennials that lived at home with parents to the percentage living with spouses or partners, dating as far back as 1880. They found that while living with a romantic partner has historically been the most popular arrangement, by 1960 the percentage of the nation’s 18-to-34-year-olds who were living with a spouse or partner in their own household had peaked at 62 percent. Today only about half as many—31.6 percent—can say the same.

These shifts may be partially responsible for the sluggish rate of Millennial homeownership. Despite the fact that in many cases purchasing a home would be about 25 percent cheaper than renting, the percentage of Millennials who buy has been falling since 2009 (partly because scraping together a down payment is such a hurdle for a generation with tight finances).

So what is tethering young people to their parents’ homes? Richard Fry, the author of the report, suggests it’s because people are not settling down the same way they used to. “The really seismic change is that we have so many fewer young adults partnering, either marrying or cohabiting,” Fry said to The New York Times. “In 1960, that silent generation left home earlier than any generation before or after, because they married so young.” An earlier Pew report projected that as many as one in four of today’s young adults may never marry.

More Men Are Living With Their Parents Than Women

Pew Research Center

On top of the fact that young adults are getting married later and later, and that a record number of couples cohabitate without marrying, where Millennials live still has a lot to do with gender. Living at home has been the primary living arrangement for 18-to-34-year-old men since 2009, and by 2014 only 28 percent were living with a partner, compared to 35 percent who lived with their parents. As of 2014, that crossover has yet to happen for women: Women are still more likely to be living with a partner than at home, as well as more likely to be the head of their households—partially, the researchers say, because they are more likely to be single parents.

Less-Educated Young Americans Are More Likely to Live With Their Parents

Pew Research Center

Gender disparities also come up when considering living arrangements from an economic standpoint. Unsurprisingly, unemployed young men are more likely to live at home, and as wages for young men in general have fallen over the past few decades, the likelihood that they will move in with their parents and family members has increased. But the study notes that the living patterns of women—who have seen increased success in the labor market in recent decades and who as a result might be expected to live more often on their own—might be more affected by the fact that they are, on average, putting off marriage until later in life.

In addition to marital and employment status, education and ethnicity are also predictors of how well-off young adults are, and presumably their ability to move into their own places. “What you tend to see is that racial and ethnic minorities, African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, are the most likely to be living in their parent’s home and the least likely to have a partner,” said Fry to The New York Times. In 2014, young black people were 6 percent more likely than their white counterparts to live at home with their parents. More young black adults began to live with parents than partners in 1980; in 2007 for American Indians and Alaska natives; and in 2011 for Hispanics.

While there has been a steady uptick of young adults living at home, the study does note that the percentage of Millennials doing so in 2014 was not technically a record high. “This arrangement peaked around 1940, when about 35 percent of the nation’s 18-to-34-year-olds lived with mom and/or dad (compared with 32 percent in 2014),” it reads. So while these figures are significant, they’re probably greater markers of shifts in how young Americans look at marriage, money, and living arrangements than they are signals of how the economy has affected their livelihoods.