Are young Europeans part of a “boomerang generation“? Throughout early adulthood, will they be forced to return several times to live with their parents? As the labour market grows more flexible, with young people today expected to change jobs – and even careers – multiple times, should the way we think of “growing up” also become more flexible?
In the United Kingdom, more than a quarter of young adults (aged 20-34) live with their parents – the highest number since 1996 when records began. The trend is echoed across Europe, and research suggests it can have a negative impact on the psychological wellbeing of both young adults and their parents.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Martina, who argues that many young Europeans today can’t afford to rent property, and many live with their parents into their 30s. She sees this as a bad thing. Is she right? How old is too old to live with your parents?
To get a response, we spoke to Liz Emerson, Co-Founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, a UK-based independent charity promoting intergenerational fairness, working for the interests of younger and future generations. What would she say?
Martina is absolutely right. In the UK, in 1997, 2.4 million young people lived with their parents. By 2017, that had risen to 3.4 million young people. And the reason they’re having to live with their parents is because of high house prices. If you are a young person living in London, you are having to find 12 times your salary for housing, and the same is happening across Europe. But young people can change the situation, as has been shown in Berlin, with rent strikes since May 2019, I believe, and the Berlin protests have seen 10’000 to 40’000 people protesting against their rents doubling in Berlin over the last 10 years.
It’s particularly pertinent on mainland Europe because, of course, in countries like Germany 85% of the population rent. In the UK, we want to be homeowners, so young people here aspire to owning a home of their own, but 50% of them will never be able to do that and are now having to rent like their counterparts across Europe.
For another perspective, we also spoke to Dr. Claus Koch, a German psychologist, journalist, and author of many books, including about the challenges of growing up and leaving the home. What would he say?
This is the phenomenon of the so-called ‘boomerang generation’ that we often read about in the press. I’m somewhat cautious in my judgement of this because often they say things like ‘young adults are too lazy to move out’, ‘they want to continue enjoying the protection from their family’ and so on. That probably is true for some individuals but by no means all. If you look at the numbers, 75% of young adults still live at home when they are 20 but by the time they are 30, its only 10% – so it’s not the overwhelming majority who stay at home. The complex reasons for this should be taken into consideration.
There is the simple economic side that, in university towns, the cost of living and, above all, the rent prices have become so expensive that many young people decide to – purely for cost reasons – to continue to live with their parents.
It’s also about, and this is perhaps the most important reason, the fact that the generational conflict between parents and young people is simply no longer as strongly present as was the case 50 years ago. When I was young, after the end of high school, it wasn’t even a question, we were moving out because we simply couldn’t see eye-to-eye with our parents in the ’60s and ’70s. That is no longer the case today and this can also be scientifically proven. Studies on youth show that the vast majority of young people say that they want to raise their children the same way that they themselves have been raised…
How old is too old to live with your parents? Are young Europeans living at home for longer than previous generations? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!