By Ashley Remkus The Decatur Daily, Ala.
Many young women, such as Town Creek resident Kimberly Parker, are deciding to live with their parents as they attend college rather than face high living expenses, a recent study found.
A Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data found 36.4 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 34 lived with parents or relatives in 2014, the most since at least 1940, when 36.2 percent lived with family.
"At the moment I don't really have an incentive to move out," said Parker, 19, a sophomore studying business management at the University of North Alabama. "My parents feed me, they make sure there's a roof over my head, and I don't really pay any bills right now. "
Parker's mother, Melissa, who also attends UNA, said because her daughter lives at home, they can carpool to and from campus to save even more money.
"I let my kids live at home as long as you can live at home," said the 46-year-old mother of three who decided to go back to college in 2014. "They still have the freedom of being an adult. But they don't have rent, utilities or any other bills that come with living on your own."
Young women and men began staying home or returning there at a more rapid rate after 2000, a trend that sharply increased with the economic uncertainty brought on by the housing collapse and recession in the late 2000s.
Kimberly Parker said staying at home not only helps financially but also provides a safety net for young millennials who are casting their nets into adulthood.
"My sister had her own place and her own bills to pay, but she struggled," Kimberly said. "I think more people are staying home because they have the opportunity to become adults while still having that security of having your parents."
Decatur resident Karen Smith said her daughter, Dare, 27, recently left home for Huntsville after previously moving back in with her parents.
"She was trying to figure things out, and coming back home gave her a safe place to do that," Smith said. "My younger daughter, Lynne, is living on campus at (the University of Montevallo). She comes and goes, but this is still her primary residence."
Smith said Lynne, 19, has started working part-time on campus but still is financially dependent on her parents.
"I truly believe my job as a parent is to prepare them to go out and live their lives on their own," Smith said. "We are always happy to have them here because we want to provide that parachute if they need it. But we really want them to be independent. I have a lot of friends whose children are still dependent on them."
The percentage of young men and women living with family fell after the 1940s as more women joined the workforce, the overall workforce expanded, and marriage rates increased.
But while marriage was once the life event that triggered a move out of the family home, it is now coming later with each generation, if it comes at all. The median age of marriage for women is 27; it was 21.5 in 1940. For men, it is 29.3; it was 24.3 in 1940.
"I think more than just not getting married, people are starting to understand it's OK to lean on your parents in the early part of their adult years," Kimberly said.
Young men historically have lived with parents at higher rates than young women, and similar economic and cultural forces are keeping an increasing number of men at home, too, in recent years. But the rate young men are staying home with their parents and relatives, 42.8 percent, remains below the 47.5 percent level for men in 1940.
Kimberly Parker's brother, Thomas, said he's content at home with his parents for now, but that he's looking to move out within a year or so.
"One of the reasons I want to move out is it's a chance for me to be independent," Thomas Parker said. "But, living on my own, I'd have to pay my own rent and bills. The benefits of living at home are substantial."
The freshman, 18, studying theater at UNA said he earns his keep from mom and dad by doing chores and buying some of the family's food.
Kimberly Parker said she'll also consider moving out during her last couple of college years to be closer to UNA's campus.
"It's not a huge issue because my parents aren't sheltering me or forcing me to stay or move out. I could stay, or I could go," she said.