Adult adolescents in the 2000 U.S. Census
By Natasha Kolpina, Poleznaya Gazette, 3 May 2002. Translated from Russian by Liz Vladeck.
It?s assumed that in the United States young people flit off to college, then fly even further on their own wings after graduating?they find work, start a family, and so on. A return to the parents? empty nest after college is considered the plight of ignoramuses, loafers and the unsuccessful.
The last census, however, shows that this stereotype needs correcting. Yes, young men and women, as usual, leave home and fly off to college, but it appears that many of them return to their childhood rooms in their parents? homes. These are not wrongdoers but young people who receive their diplomas at institutions of higher education, find themselves a job and convince themselves that they can?t independently solve many problems.
Such a picture especially seems to contradict the events of the last decade. After all, the internet business took the economy by storm. It seemed like every time you turned around, there was another story in the press about a twenty-something multi-millionaire. Of course, when the bubble broke in the exaggerated rush to open electronic firms, young multi-millionaires became simply millionaires. But it?s not necessary to feel sorry for those folks. This trend refers to another kind of twenty-something.
Elaine Aronson graduated from prestigious Smith College with a degree in social work, and found a job with the city of Chicago. Six months later she went home to her parents? house in New Jersey for the weekend, and announced that she was going to have to leave her job and live at home for awhile. The reason? Primarily economic. The rent for her tiny one-room apartment in a relatively safe neighborhood in Chicago came out to just about Elaine?s monthly salary. She had no money left over for anything else.
How common is this scenario? It turns out that there are more than 4,500,000 educated, employed people between the ages of 25 and 35 who return to and live in their parents? home for some period of time. And with the rise in the cost of living, this tendency, by all available indicators, will increase.
Newsweek conducted an online survey of those leaving college in 2002, and found that 54 percent of those responding planned to spend some amount of time living with their parents; 21 percent guessed they would need to stay under their parents? roof for the better part of a year. For this category of young people, someone has already thought up a name: adultolescents. They are not planning to, or they simply can?t conform to the national standard?work, family, children, buying a home, financial independence.
Which trends are connected with this pattern? Well, first of all, the average age at which people get married is increasing. In 1970, Americans started families at an average age of 22. In 2002, that average age is 26. The birth of a first child is being put off ten more years, as they say now, ?under the gun of the biological clock.? Inasmuch as the number of jobs is decreasing, young people drag out the educational process: the ranks of graduate students, doctorates, post-docs, and so on are swelling.
Complicated psychological factors must be added to the economic reality. The parents of today?s adolescents?the Woodstock Generation?grew up in the 1960s with the idea of completely rejecting their parents? lifestyle. Their slogan was ?don?t trust anyone over 30.? Today?s young people can?t imagine themselves in such a contentious relationship with their parents. Such close relationships between parents and children haven?t been seen since the time of World War II.
Both sides?parents and children?admit that the new situation leaves them with mixed feelings. On the one hand, mothers and fathers have already resigned themselves to facing an empty nest after the kids leave for school; they don?t hide their happiness at the return of an adult child. On the other hand, they know that the longer they financially support their children, the harder it will be for everyone. Then there?s the fact that they are unable to set aside $20-30,000 a year for retirement.
Everyone hopes that the situation will change with the end of the recession. But it?s the next census that will have the final word. And that census isn?t far off?2010 fast approaches.
This article appeared in Edition 18 of Voices That Must Be Heard.
Translation Â© 2002, IPA, all rights reserved. Included by permisson of Poleznaya Gazette.