After a Brief Return, Young Adults Quick to Move Out of Parents Homes as the Pandemic Continues
The surge in young adults living in their parents’ homes during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have been short-lived, according to new data from the Census Bureau. Data from the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) show that the share of the population age 18-29 living in their parents’ homes, which had jumped from 42 percent in January of 2020 to 49 percent in June (representing an increase of nearly 3.5 million young adults) dropped back down to 43 percent in October.
The rise and fall of young adults living in parents’ homes last year was not evenly distributed across age groups. The share of younger adults aged 18-24 living with parents rose sharply over the spring and summer and then declined sharply in the fall, but remained slightly above the pre-pandemic rate at the end of the year. As shown in Figure 1, the share rose from 58 percent in January to 67 percent in June and ended the year at 61 percent, which was about two percentage points higher than in December of 2019.
Figure 1: The Rise in Young Adults Living with Parents Early in the Pandemic Was Mostly Reversed After the Summer
Meanwhile, the share of adults aged 25-29 living in parents’ homes also rose in the spring and summer, then declined in the fall. However, the rise for this older age group was not as sharp as for younger adults—increasing from 23 percent in January to 26 percent in June—and was completely reversed by a decline in the fall. Indeed, the right panel of Figure 1 shows that by December, the share aged 25-29 living with parents was back down to 21.5 percent and lower than in December of 2019.
The higher prevalence of living with parents among those 18-24 at the end of 2020 was almost entirely university students living in their parents’ homes, and not young adults in the labor force. Indeed, although both full-time students and non-students grew more likely to live with parents in the summer of 2020, only rates for full-time students remained elevated in December 2020 (Figure 2). Those not attending college or university full time were not significantly more likely to live with parents in late 2020 than they were a year earlier. We also looked to see if more young adults were enrolled in college last year, which would increase rates because students are more likely to live in parents’ homes, but the monthly shares of 18-24 year olds attending university full-time over the course of 2020 were unchanged from 2019.
Figure 2: Among Those Aged 18-24, It Was Mostly Students that Ended the Year More Likely to Live at Home
If the net increase in living in parents’ homes over the past year was limited to students, that might imply less negative impact on the rate of new household formations, which is a key source of new housing demand that had been particularly strong in the years leading up to the pandemic. Young adults who are full-time students are less likely to be economically independent, and therefore more likely to be living in their parents’ homes rather than heading their own household. Indeed, most household formations occur after young adults complete school and begin to work full-time. That it was only those still in school who had elevated shares of living in their parents’ homes by the end of 2020 suggests that rates of new household formation held steady among the youngest adults in the labor force – a far more significant group in terms of new housing demand.
CPS survey results used in this analysis were affected to an unknown degree by the pandemic in 2020, so trends will need to be confirmed by additional data. Indeed, pandemic-induced changes to the survey methodology and a drop in responses led to results in 2020 that could not be fully reconciled with previous surveys. Given that the impacts on the survey were largest in the spring and summer, the sharp rise in rates of living with parents reported at that time could itself be spurious. Although the normal survey methodology was mostly resumed, and survey response rates had greatly recovered by the end of the year, the results should be viewed with caution until more data are available.