Welcome to the New Adulthood

For most of us, moving out of the parental units’ house is the ultimate signifier of adulthood.  So, what’s the threshold defining adulthood for the growing numbers of 25 year olds, who live with their parents (even after moving away for college)?

Since 2002, parental co-residence rates have only risen:



And, in 2012:



The unemployment rates amongst young adults who’ve graduated from college may explain the reasons behind living with parents longer, yet not answering the larger question: are we, as a culture, changing the definition of an adult?




Further details about unemployment numbers may give greater credence to the financial circumstances creating a change in the definition of adulthood.

13.8% of 18 to 29 year olds are both not working, AND not looking for a job, having given up the search due to the lack of jobs available, according to Generation Opportunity.

While only 7.9% of 18-29 year olds are unemployed, and still looking for work.

The prospects of even those who are working to live apart from their parents may not be much greater—adding more evidence that adulthood is under transformation. The following map documents the average hourly wage needed in order to rent a one-bedroom apartment in each state:


Map produced by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, 2015.


Plus, since median earnings are relatively unchanged in the last five generations of young adults, the Millennial generation may simply be inheriting a multi-decade economic transition, where not being able to afford housing apart from parents is the consequence.  Thus, the re-defining of being an adult has also been decades in the making.


Courtesy of the Pew Research Center


And for young adults earning minimum wage, living on their own may not even be a choice to consider.  The following map documents the average number of hours per week needed to work at minimum wage in order to rent a two bedroom apartment in every state.  In only 13 states can minimum wage earners work 60 hours a week or less to afford a two-bedroom apartment.


Map produced by the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, 2015


And, for those in the Millennial Generation looking to buy a house, living with parents may be the only option, unless they want to relocate away from the family support network:




While the issues of stagnating median wage growth, a lack of jobs paying a living wage and rising housing costs are changing expectations for young adults today, the increasing total student debt, currently $1.2 Trillion, may be permanently altering how successive generations will come of age. While facing dilemmas is a regular part of adulthood, are these aforementioned dilemmas how we want to initiate our newest adults?

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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