For the first time in more than 130 years, more American young adults are living with their parents than with a romantic partner, marking a significant shift in societal trends as financial prospects for young men have worsened while marriage has been in decline overall.
As of 2014, according to a report from the Pew Research Center out Tuesday using data compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau, 32.1% of Americans ages 18 to 34 were living with one or both parents, compared to 31.6% living with a spouse or partner, the first time since 1880 that more young Americans lived with mom and dad than with a partner.
The change is less the result of an increase in young Americans living with their parents, which peaked in 1940 at 35%, than of the decline in marriage overall. In 1960, the portion of young Americans living with a partner peaked at 62%, the same year the share living with parents bottomed out at about 20%. Living with mom and dad has increased more or less steadily ever since, while living with a romantic partner has plummeted, as young people delay marriage or forgo the institution altogether.
Pew estimates that as many as a quarter of young adults today will never marry, a shift owing to numerous factors, including adults choosing to marry later in life, changing public attitudes, and a decline in economic prospects among young men, for whom employment peaked around 1960 at 84% and fell to 71% by 2014. That’s a stark contrast to young women, for whom economic prospects have improved in the last 50 years. Inflation-adjusted earnings for young men have also fallen substantially since 1970, leading more of them to live with parents rather than a spouse.
Another cause of the shift in living arrangements among young Americans is a rise in other non-traditional living arrangements for the unattached, like living alone or with a non-parent relative (this includes being a single parent), which grew substantially in the last 20 years, and living with roommates in a group setting, which hit a nadir in the middle of the last century but as of 2014 has risen to 22%, near its historical peak.