Friday, March 12, 1999Between a rock and mom's place
Young adults are staying home longer out of economic necessity. Statistics Canada points to higher university enrolments, unemployment, and the tendency to marry later in life
Luiza Chwialkowska with files from Susanne Hiller
Record numbers of young adults in Canada are living at home with their parents, Statistics Canada reported yesterday. In fact, adults in their 20s and early 30s were more likely to be living with mom and dad in 1996, the most recent year for which census data is available, than at any time during the previous 15 years.
These findings came as surprise, and a relief, to young people around the country who have been the butt of jokes because they live with their parents.
"I was reassured. I thought, thank God, I'm not the only one," said Ann McGerrigle, 30, an investment firm administrator who has been living with her parents in Toronto for the past two years. "I was surprised at how many people do."
The increase was especially large among young adults aged 20-24; nearly 57% were living with their parents in 1996, up from 43% in 1981. But young adults living with their parents tended to be older in 1996 than in previous years. In 1981, one-quarter of both unmarried women and unmarried men who lived at home were aged 25 or older. By 1996, these proportions had risen to 33% of unmarried women and 40% of unmarried men.
Statistics Canada said the growing tendency of young adults to live with their parents may be due to higher university enrolments, higher rates of unemployment among young adults during the two recessions between 1981 and 1996, and the tendency of young people to get married later in life.
But many young adults return home after university to re-establish relationships with their parents, escape job pressures, and save money.
"I wanted to own the next place I live [in], and I knew I couldn't save up to buy anything if I had to pay rent," says Ms. McGerrigle, who concedes that living at home requires sacrifices, such as indulging her parents' taste for the television game show Jeopardy.
"Overall, it's worked out really well," she says. "As my parents get older, I appreciate the time I have with them."
Men are more likely than women to live with their parents, Statistics Canada found. In 1996, 23% of women aged 20-34 lived in the parental home, up from 16% in 1981. During the same period, the proportion of men in the same age group and living at home increased to 33% from 26%.
Live-at-home men say they face a double standard; they complain of being considered unmanly.
"I'm always nervous when I introduce myself to a woman," says a 28-year-old Toronto man, a writer, who refused to be named for fear of being teased by friends and colleagues. "I always try and steer the conversation away from get-to-know-you questions like, 'What do you do?' because I know that the dreaded, 'Where do you live?' is coming next."
His decision to stay at home is based on family values, he said.
"I've resorted to lying, telling people I've got loads of student loans and desperately need to save cash. People understand that. They can't understand that I have a very close relationship with my parents and want to live at home."
Living at home can make dating complicated, however.
"It's not like my boyfriend, Larry, can stay over or watch movies for hours on the couch," says Joanne Cole, 27, who moved from Alberta to her parents' home in St. John's two years ago. "There's always somebody around. That part is a little strange."
The number of married children living with their parents has also increased In 1996, 3% of married women and 4% of married men aged 20-34 were living with their parents, more than double the proportions 15 years earlier.
The Toronto writer, however, worries if he will ever join their ranks.
"I don't really need to move out until I meet a woman I love," he says. "But, then again, I suppose that's a tad difficult when I'm too shy to meet women in the first place because I'm embarrassed by living at home."
A description of the study "Young Adults Living at Home."
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