August 10, 2013

Boom in boomerang kids: Percentage of young adults living at home in Sacramento at a record high

Call them boomerang kids, parasite singles, or emerging adults. Whatever they are, they're on the rise, and they're moving back home.

Call them boomerang kids, parasite singles, or emerging adults. Whatever they are, they're on the rise, and they're moving back home.

According to the latest Census Bureau data, the percentage of Sacramento adults ages 18 to 31 who are living with their parents is at an all-time high – 36.4 percent of the population in 2011.

The previous record was set at the dawn of the Great Depression, when 35.5 percent of Sacramento adults in that age group lived with mom and dad.

If it's any consolation, the living arrangements of Sacramento's young adults are similar to their counterparts across the country, according to a study published last week by the Pew Research Center. The study found the share of 18- to 31-year-olds who are living with their parents is the highest it has been in at least four decades at 36 percent.

"It's a number that I expect," said Jeff Michael, director of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific in Stockton.

"The biggest reason is just the lousy job market," he said.

But a poor job market may not be the only reason for the rise. "There's probably some cultural aspects: I get a feeling that this younger generation is maybe more comfortable living with mom and dad," Michael said.

Christopher Thornberg, head of Beacon Economics, has been investigating for the past week why more young adults are living at home. "There's not any clean answer," he said.

Thornberg found the trend was strong even in places with a rapidly growing job market, such as Texas. "Why there of all places?" he asked.

He also found it strange that the rise began years before the recession's effects hit. "The real spike in unemployment didn't start until 2009," Thornberg said.

For recent graduates, the explanation is easily economic.

"I only live at home because I'm saving up for law school," said Amanda Saechao, 23, a legislative aide for California and a Sacramento State graduate.

Saechao did not agree that young adults are more comfortable living with parents. Moving back home is generally a last resort, she said. Often, her friends will take lesser-paying jobs or ask parents for financial help before moving back home.

"Why would you want to move back home?" Saechao said. "I don't think that's something we would like to do."

Tim Chin, 22, a UC Davis graduate, recently landed his dream job working at a record label. He has no immediate plans to move out of his parents' home, where he has been living for the past year.

"I just don't make enough money to move out on my own," he said.

Chin said there are many challenges to living at home as an adult. "My lifestyle is very different from my parents'. I spend a lot of time outside of my house. I go home to sleep," he said.

He has had to make some adjustments. "I'm doing things that they've asked – saving my money, maybe not staying out till 4 in the morning," he said.

Although Chin enjoys living with his parents, he hopes the situation isn't permanent. "Ideally, I'd like to move out as soon as possible," he said.

Chin said even some of his friends with science degrees are living at home. Jobs were the limiting factor.

"If you can't find a job, what's the point of moving to a new house? Other than freedom," he said.

But even for young adults ready to move out of the parental nest, the difficult housing market isn't exactly helping, said Linda Bennett, a real estate agent with NeighborWorks Home Ownership Center.

Bennett works with many first-time homeowners. She said big companies and investors with cash are snapping up available homes. This is making it extremely difficult for new homebuyers, even those with good credit, she said.

"You can have 805 FICO score, you can have a down payment, you can have all your ducks in a row," but "you can't compete with all cash," Bennett said.

One young man she worked with recently is "living at home for a whole lot longer than he planned because it's hard to buy," she said.

Until their economic situations improve, both Saechao and Chin said their parents were understanding, and even encouraged them to stay at home and save money.

"They know how tough the economy is, so they're willing to let you live at home for a little bit," Saechao said. "But then eventually, they get sick of you."

Call The Bee's Ellen Le, (916) 321-1031. Follow her in Twitter @ellenble.

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