More Education Means Less Chance of Living with Mom and Dad

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Written by: Ellyn Arevalo Steidl, David Ihrke and Jonathan Vespa

Our last blog on young adults looked at trends over the last 40 years of young adults living with their parents. Today we take a closer look at this group and try to answer the question: Are young college grads moving back in with their parents?

The data shows a relationship between young adults’ education and living with parents. A quarter of 25- to 34-year-olds who have a college degree live in the parental home (see figure 1), while 44 percent of those with only a high school diploma live at home.

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For young adults who can’t afford to live on their own, moving in with a parent may offer a kind of safety net. (Note that the data also include some young adults who were already living with their parents and moved to a new address with them.) In 2013, young adults living with a parent were more likely to say that they had moved in because they lost their job or were looking for work, or experienced a change in their marital status. Between 2009 and 2012, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, moving because of a job loss was cited more than twice as often by young adults living with a parent than by those living on their own (see figure 2).

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Marriage may also have been a factor. In 2010, there was a spike in young adults who reported a change in marital status as the reason for moving in with a parent (see figure 2). Most of these people, 65 percent, were either divorced or separated. In contrast, most of their peers who were living independently and had moved because of a change in marital status did so because they were getting married (74 percent).

Overall, young adults who live with a parent typically have less education and fewer economic resources than those who live independently. These patterns challenge the idea of college grads who move back home to avoid living on their own. Instead, family may be a safety net that helps protect against the economic shocks that often accompany job loss and divorce.

And, don’t forget next week you’ll be able to see more characteristics of young adults for your community with the newest release of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

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For the Most Part, Few Young Adults Live With Their Parents

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By Jonathan Vespa, David Ihrke and Ellyn Arevalo Steidl

People may think that today’s young adults, often called “millennials” — the so-called “boomerang generation”— are flocking to their parents’ basement instead of moving out on their own.

However, a look at the data suggest that the anecdotal “truth” is a bit of an exaggeration. Although it is true that a record number of young adults live in their parents’ home, in reality only a small fraction actually do so. For every 100 people age 25 to 34, 14 lived in a parent’s household last year (see figure). Before the Great Recession, which lasted from 2007 to 2009, that number was just 12 out of 100. Far more young adults — 44 of out 100 — were married and living with their spouse last year and not living with a parent.

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The rise in the percentage of young adults living with parents has been a demographic trend that actually began with the baby boomers, years before the current generation. For much of the 1960s and 1970s, the share of young adults living with a parent stayed around 8 percent. That number swelled throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the same time as many baby boomers were reaching the 25-34 year old age group, and climbed to 12 percent by 1995.

After a dip that began at the end of the 1990s and lasted a decade, the number began rising again in 2006 — notably before the Great Recession began. In other words, today’s young adults are repeating the behaviors of their boomer parents who, a generation earlier, swelled the ranks of young adults who were living with mom and dad.

This isn’t to say that the recent recession had no effect; we’ll look at its role in our next blog. Over the last 40 years, however, there has not always been an increase in living with a parent following downturns in the economy. When put in a broader context, the recent rise in living with a parent is quite modest and, in fact, follows a long-term demographic shift in the nation’s population. So instead of describing millennials as failing to launch, it may be more appropriate to say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Want to see how the trend has gone in your hometown? Check back next week for more information from the Census Bureau’s latest American Community Survey data release.

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Demographics of Handheld-Only Households

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Written By: Thom File, Sociologist, Education and Social Stratification Statistics Branch

As computing and Internet technology have evolved, many people have started accessing the Internet with hand-held devices, such as smartphones. Overall, about 83.8 percent of households reported owning some type of computer last year, with 63.6 percent reporting owning hand-held devices, and 78.5 percent owning more traditional desktops or laptops.

Regardless of the type of device, computer-owning households were more likely to be young, Asian or white, and affluent, according to a new report  from the American Community Survey. These results conform to the digital divides observed in past Census Bureau reports and closely align with 2013 rates of household Internet use as well.

However, there is evidence that certain groups rely more than others on hand-held computers as their only type of computer. In 2013, about 5 percent of households reported having only hand-held devices.

In some cases, the pattern of these handheld-only households is similar to that of overall computer ownership. Hand-held computer ownership by age works this way, with young households reporting higher rates of having only hand-held computers than older householders (about 10 percent of the youngest households fell into this category, compared with only 2.5 percent of the oldest households).

In other instances, the pattern for using only hand-held devices is directly opposite that of overall computer ownership. Black and Hispanic households, for example, were more likely than both white and Asian households to report owning only a hand-held device. The same pattern appears by income, with low-income households reporting handheld ownership alone at much higher rates than more affluent households (Figure 4).

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Whether or not the emergence of mobile technologies can level traditional digital divides remains an open question, but as hand-held technologies evolve and become more readily available, it will be important to continue tracking trends for households with only hand-held computing devices.

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Grandparents Who Live with a Grandchild are Younger and More Likely to be in Poverty

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Written by: Renee R. Ellis, demographer, Fertility and Family Statistics Branch

The Survey of Income and Program Participation is the only U.S. census survey that asks questions about grandparents who do not live with their grandchildren. In the Coresident Grandparents and Their Grandchildren: 2012 report, we used the 2008 survey for the first time to compare grandparents who lived with grandchildren to grandparents who did not. There were about 65 million grandparents in the United States in 2009. About 10 percent of those grandparents lived with at least one grandchild.

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Grandparents with coresident grandchildren were younger, on average, than those without coresident grandchildren. While only about 5 percent of non-coresident grandparents were under age 44, 11.0 percent of grandparents who lived with grandchildren were under 44. Conversely, about 48 percent of grandparents who did not live with a grandchild were over age 65, while 27 percent of grandparents who lived with a grandchild were over 65.

Grandparents who did not live with their grandchildren were more likely to be married with their spouse present. Sixty-four percent of them were married, compared with 58 percent of grandparents who lived with a grandchild. However, they were also more likely to be widowed or cohabiting. Sixteen percent of nonresident grandparents were widowed and 3 percent were cohabiting, compared with 14 percent widowed and 2 percent cohabiting for coresident grandparents.

Grandparents who did not live with their grandchildren had higher levels of education. Only 14 percent did not graduate from high school, compared with 28 percent of coresident grandparents. Thirty-three percent of non-coresident grandparents completed at least some college, and 19 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher. In comparison 28 percent of coresident grandparents completed some college, and 11 percent had a bachelor’s or higher.

These educational differences relate to differences in work status and poverty. Fifty-eight percent of non-coresident grandparents were not working, compared with 52 percent of coresident grandparents. Coresident grandparents were more likely to have work limitations because of an illness or disability (23 percent), compared with 15 percent of non-coresident grandparents. Coresident grandparents were also more likely to be in poverty (17 percent) compared with non-coresident grandparents (10 percent).

From this research, we can conclude that while coresident grandparents are a small subset of all grandparents, they are distinctly different from non-coresident grandparents on a variety of characteristics.

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What is the Supplemental Poverty Measure and How Does it Differ from the Official Measure?

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Written by: Kathleen Short, Census Bureau Economist

In September, the U.S. Census Bureau released official poverty statistics for the United States for the 2013 calendar year. The current official poverty measure was developed in the early 1960s, and only a few minor changes have been implemented since that time.

In 2010, an interagency technical working group asked the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to develop a new measure that would improve our understanding of the economic well-being of American families and enhance our ability to measure the effect of federal policies on those living in poverty. The technical design of the supplemental poverty measure draws on the recommendations of a 1995 National Academy of Sciences report and the extensive research on poverty measurement conducted over the past 15 years. See the history of poverty measures in the United States here: http://www.census.gov/how/infographics/poverty_measure-history.html

This week, the Census Bureau will release the fourth report on the supplemental poverty measure, containing estimates for the 2013 calendar year. The report presents estimates for and discusses differences between the official and the supplemental poverty measures. The major differences are listed in the box below and in this chart: http://www.census.gov/how/infographics/poverty_measure-how.html

The official measure compares a family’s or individual’s before-tax cash income to a set of thresholds based on the cost of a minimum food diet in 1963, updated to 2013 by changes in prices. To determine poverty status, the measure compares the family’s cash income, such as earnings from a job or Social Security benefits, with the official poverty threshold. It does not take account of the value of important federal programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and housing and energy assistance, nor does it account for refundable tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, aimed specifically at families with low income.

The supplemental poverty measure does take into account family resources and expenses not included in the official measure. The value of noncash benefits that are available to buy the basic bundle of goods are added to cash income. Necessary expenses for critical goods and services are subtracted, such as income taxes, social security payroll taxes, child care and other work-related expenses, out-of-pocket contributions toward the cost of medical care and health insurance premiums, and child support payments to another household.

Thresholds used in the new measure are prepared at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and derived from the Consumer Expenditure Survey. They are based on the most recent five-year reports on how much people spend on basic necessities (food, shelter, clothing and utilities) and are adjusted for geographic differences in the cost of housing.

Chart comparing official poverty measure and supplemental poverty measure components

This week’s report will compare 2013 supplemental poverty estimates with 2013 official poverty estimates for numerous demographic groups. It will provide state-level poverty estimates and show how our perception of the poverty population differs from that using the official statistics. In addition, the report will examine the effect of noncash benefits, tax credits and necessary expenses on supplemental poverty rates.

For more details on the new measure, please see the technical appendices of the November 2013 report or the technical webinar presented with the release of the first supplemental poverty measure report in November 2011.

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