A nation of late-movers: why more young people than ever are living at home

Mathilde Ive

Mathilde Ive

My boiler broke today. In perfect timing for the end of the blessed Indian summer and the return of good old freezing winter. Great! As the independent young woman that I am, having lived on my own since age 18, I obviously knew what to do. Call Dad.

Five minutes later, between him frantically screaming instructions over the phone and my desperate attempts to use a screwdriver, I suddenly wished myself far far away to less complicated days, when he would just fix it, and I wouldn’t care.

It would appear that I am not the only one who still favours the ways of Mum and Dad. According to figures released yesterday there has been a 26 per cent increase since 1996 in 20- to 34-year-olds still living at home. The biggest increase following the economic downturn in 2007/2008.

Obviously there is no point in denying that this figure is more an indication of young people not being able to afford living on their own with ever-increasing house prices than it is a case of them actively choosing to hang out with mommy and poppy. But yet I think there is another point to be made besides economic hardship.

Could a lot of these young people (3.3 million to be exact), still living at home, not make it on their own if forced to? And does their decision to stay longer at home not also bear some social implication? When I turned 18 my dad jokingly (I think) said: “Congrats hun. Now I’m counting the days until you move out.” I obviously knew that wasn’t true. I could have chosen to stay, not paying a dime, and attend University only worrying about whether to get that Topshop dress or the suede Kooples jacket I’ve been eyeing up for months.

And actually my parents would have loved it. They have the space, the time and the economic surplus.

This is in stark contrast to family dynamics less than a century back, where children were had in large numbers and had to find ways of supporting themselves at a far earlier age than today. They were mouths to feed. Today they are carefully timed ‘projects,’ with childlessness more common than ever in the UK.

People have fewer children, spend more money on them, and allow them to stay at home longer – it is not just the choice of the young ones, is it? We are a fortunate generation of princesses and princes born to great privilege in times where fertility rates are dramatically dropping.

So should we feel bad that we are perhaps taking slight advantage of our parents’ hospitality? No! Faced with an aging generation that will live longer than ever, we will have plenty of opportunity to give back. I imagine in twenty years we will see a 26 per cent increase in parents living with their children.

In the end I did fix the boiler. My dad was proud, though mostly of his own achievements: “Good to know you can still make use of your old man once in a while.”

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