More Young Adults Are Choosing to Live at Home, but the Reasons Why Differ Between Blacks and Whites

The trope of millennials living in their parents’ basement never fails to entertain and concern in equal measure, but a new study suggests that there’s more nuance to the story.

The research, which focused on 21- to 24-year-olds between 2001 and 2013, indicates that the motivation behind young adults choosing to live at home varies by race. Young black adults appear to be more sensitive to the cost of rent, which grew more dramatically for them than it did for their white peers during the study period. Young white adults appear to base their decision more on their chances of getting a job.

The study is the latest research to indicate that the economic lives of black and white young adults can be vastly different, affecting their trajectories as they grow older. Another recent study suggests that the challenges young black adults face repaying their student loans as compared to their white peers fuels the black-white wealth gap.

For young black adults, a 10% increase in average monthly rent was associated with a nearly 5% decrease in the likelihood that they’ll live on their own, according to the study, which was released this week by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Connecticut. For young white adults, the increase in rent was associated with a less than 1% decline in the likelihood they’ll move out.

But for these white adults, the employment rate held more sway — a 1% drop in the employment rate was associated with a 1% decline in the likelihood they’ll live on their own. A decline in employment rates had virtually no effect on whether young black adults formed their own households.

“When we read popular reports about what is happening to young people today, usually they are in the aggregate,” said Sandra Newman, a public policy professor at Johns Hopkins and one of the authors of the study. “What this paper shows is that when you aggregate, you’re not getting the distinct differences.”

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