Who’s still living with their parents?

Looking for a way out.
Looking for a way out.
Image: AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti
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Over the past 10 years, the rise in the ranks of young Brits who moved in with their parents could more than fill a city the size of Liverpool.

According to new data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics, around 950,000 more people aged 20-34 were living with their parents in 2013 than a decade earlier. In total, just over a quarter of that age group—some 3.3 million people—lived with their parents last year. The population of 20- to 34-year-olds was stable over this period, so the rise is entirely due to people who chose to move in with Mum and Dad (or never left in the first place).

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On its face, this is hard to square with the steady stream of good news about the British economy. The latest jobs report, released today, showed the biggest three-month drop in unemployment since 1997. Yesterday, the IMF boosted its outlook for UK economic growth more than for any other advanced economy it tracks. But wage growth is sluggish and well below the rate of inflation, particularly the runaway rise in house prices. This makes it easier to understand the apparent surge in young people living under their parents’ roofs.

But how bad is it really? Comparative statistics are available, but tend to use different definitions, focusing on 25- to 34-year-olds. After all, is it unusual for 60% of British 20-year-olds to live at home? When you strip these youngsters out of the sample, 14% of 25- to 34-year-olds in the UK, or 1.6 million people, lived with their parents last year, up from 10% a decade earlier. Thus, the relative increase for this age group is similar to the larger sample, but the share of people who shack up with their parents is quite a bit smaller.

International comparisons

The financial crisis was not kind to young people, particularly in Europe. But Brits are better off than most, at least as measured by the share of young people who still live with their parents. For both economic and cultural reasons, that share is much larger in most of Europe. (The numbers and the recent trends in the US are roughly the same as in the UK, as seen in the charts below.)

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Somewhat surprisingly, though, in hard-hit European countries like Spain and Ireland, the share of young people living with their parents is now smaller than it was immediately before the financial crisis. But that’s because many of them have left their home countries entirely; for example, the number of 25- to 34-year-olds in Spain has plunged by 16% over the past five years.

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