When Melissa Jenkins received her college diploma last year, she was ready to get on with life — and move in with her parents.
The 23-year-old was saddled with student loans from her years at college and felt she had no solid career prospects.
“It didn’t make sense for me to move out on my own,” she says. “I didn’t have the appropriate funds. I was searching for a career path.”
When the class of 2008 graduates this spring, nearly half are expected to move back home, according to Susan Shaffer, co-author of Mom, Can I Move Back in with You?: A Survival Guide for Parents of Twentysomethings. They’re called Boomerangers, and their number has remained pretty consistent since the dot-com bust, she says, a result of financial and social pressures unknown to previous generations.
The economy isn’t entirely to blame: This year’s job outlook is better than last’s, according to the U.S. National Association of Colleges and Employers, with companies planning to hire eight-per-cent more recent graduates this year.
Still, wages for new grads haven’t kept pace with inflation in the U.S. and rising student loan and credit card debt and a troubled housing market make a return to the nest more likely, experts say.
Today’s twentysomethings also have better relationships with their parents, they don’t mind trading in their independence and their parents are OK with having them come home.
“It’s become the norm for recent grads to move back home,” says Alexandra Robbins, author of Conquering Your Quarterlife Crisis.
According to 2006 U.S. Census figures, 46.7 per cent of women and 53.7 per cent of men ages 18 to 24 still live at home, although those numbers include college students living in dorms. For ages 25 to 34, 14.3 per cent of men lived with their parents in 2006, compared to 10.9 per cent in 1960.
Robbins says twentysomethings can’t afford to be independent these days. “Even before this latest downturn, this generation was not earning the same wages that their parents earned, taking inflation into consideration,” she says.
Of course, starting salaries have never been high — even Baby Boomers made low wages in their first post college gig, says Anna Ivey, an admissions and career consultant.
But 73 per cent of today’s graduating seniors will leave college with an average of about $23,000 in student loans, according to the Student Monitor Spring 2008 Recruitment study. And the average outstanding balance on undergraduate credit cards was $2,169, according to a 2004 Nellie Mae survey, the most recent year available.
“They might have good jobs but they are also graduating with a lot of debt,” says Ivey. “That can make it hard to meet basic expenses once they are out of college.”