This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

More Young Adults are Hanging Around With Their Parents

Pew Research just released a report on living arrangements of young adult Americans (ages 18-34) showing that an increasing fraction are living with their parents. The title of the report is "For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds," and the NPR story about it has the headline "For First Time In 130 Years, More Young Adults Live With Parents Than With Partners." Neither headline is technically inaccurate, but they can be misinterpreted. For example, as you can see in the graphs below from the Pew report, it is still the case that a majority of young people--whether male or female--are NOT living with their parents, even if the percentage has been increasing since 1960.

The explanations offered for this trend, such as the Great Recession, also miss two important demographic trends: (1) the cohort size phenomenon within the U.S.; and (2) the population growth in developing countries phenomenon [and, yes, I still use that phrase even if the World Bank doesn't]. The birth cohort issue is that in 1960 the young adult population in the US was comprised largely of the small cohorts of people born in the Depression, who were pushed along in life by being too young for involvement in WWII but old enough to be catering to the baby boomers. They were the "Lucky Few" that Woodie Carlson has written about (an excellent book--I recommend it). They were a fluke, not really part of a trend that has somehow reversed itself. And, of course, part of their luck was in becoming adults just before developing countries like China, in particular, created a cheap labor market, building on the drop in death rates produced by the spread of medical technology--especially antibiotics--after WWII, as I discuss in detail in the book and have mentioned in this blog before because it is so important to world history.

Seen in proper historical context, the increase in young adults living at home is part of the global demographic transition, not a uniquely odd event.


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