National Post

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

More twenty-somethings still living with the 'rents

National Post

OTTAWA -- Canada is becoming a country of home boys and girls as more young adults -- especially men -- are roosting in the parental nest longer and later, according to 2001 census data released Tuesday.

Slightly more than 41 per cent of Canada's twenty-somethings were living with their folks last year when Statistics Canada took its five-year snapshot of the population.

Men were the hardest to dislodge.

Among those aged 20 to 24, two thirds -- 64 per cent -- lived with their parents, falling to 29 per cent for men between 25 and 29.

Some 52 per cent of women in their early 20s lived at home, dropping sharply to 19 per cent among those 25 to 29.

The numbers are up from the 1996 census and are part of a wider pattern that has been emerging since 1981, when 27 per cent of these young adults shared the parental nest.

"I think that for many young people it has become almost a lifestyle choice,'' said Barbara Mitchell, sociologist at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver who has studied the phenomenon for a decade.

"The stigma that we saw associated with it in the '70s has really lessened.''

Most telling is that the proportion of young adults at home actually climbed two per cent between 1996 and 2001.

The increase comes despite a strong economy in the latter half of the 1990s that undercut the No. 1 rationale for adult children living in their parents' home: economic necessity.

Instead, the trend may now be driven by a blend of comfort, psychology and economy.

Rob Manias, 25, graduated with a business degree from York University in Toronto two years ago and works full-time for IBM Canada.

He has never left his home in Richmond Hill, Ont., which he shares with his parents and two younger brothers, also both in their 20s.

Indeed, Toronto and other cities in Ontario's booming Golden Horseshoe lead the country in crowded nests, with a number of centres hovering around 50 per cent of twenty-somethings living with the 'rents. Toronto itself leads the country at 54 per cent.

"I have friends who have gone off on their own,'' Manias said in an interview.

"Both are looking at 600 or 700 square foot condos -- I would say closets -- at exhorbitant prices. They quickly put themselves in a noose, living life paycheque to paycheque.

"It's not something that's appealing to me right now.''

Manias, who doesn't pay rent, is aiming for financial stability and the ability to buy a home. He says he'd like to be out on his own before he's 30.

But a surprising number of men are not.

Fully 33 per cent of unmarried men between 30 and 34 were living in the parental home last year -- up from 32 per cent in the 1996 census and 28 per cent in 1981. Among early-thirty-something single women, the proportion is 22 per cent, up from 18 per cent 20 years ago.

The gap between men and women of all ages is easily enough explained, said Mitchell, who surveyed more than 1,900 youths in the Vancouver region in 1999-2000.

Women tend to face stricter parental supervision, while at the same time being expected to carry more of the weight of household chores, such as cooking and cleaning.

"From their perspective, a lot of the young women feel that living at home they have less freedom than the young men,'' Mitchell explained.

That points to kids staying at home as a lifestyle choice, rather than an economic imperative, although the two influences are clearly mixed.

Common factors cited for the growing trend have included:

While the growing trend is evident everywhere, there are significant regional differences. The proportion of young adults age 20 to 29 living with their parents ranged from a high of 50.9 per cent in Newfoundland to a low of 29.8 per cent in Saskatchewan.

"Young adults . . . were more likely to live with their parents in the eastern provinces,'' Statistics Canada noted.

The census data is not able to tell the difference between the so-called boomerang kids -- those young adults who left home and returned when things didn't work out -- and those who have never departed.

But surveys of both groups, said Mitchell, have revealed that the stigma of living at home has continued to diminish even during the relatively affluent late 1990s.

Mitchell's research has also shown that kids and parents in such living arrangements are both surprisingly content. It's a self-selecting group, she notes.

"Close families tend to stick together. Chances are it's not going to last very long if there's a lot of inter-generational tension.''

Nonetheless, a small publishing sub-industry has sprung up around the phenomenon, with titles such as "101 Ways to Get Your Adult Children to Move Out: (And Make Them Think It Was Their Idea)'' and "Kicking Your Kid Out of the Nest: Raising Teenagers for Life on Their Own.''

Bob Glossop, head of the Vanier Institute of the Family in Ottawa, said there's been a general delay in "major life transitions.''

"If we think back to the 1950 and '60s, one of the markers of maturity was leaving home,'' said Glossop.

"It becomes part and parcel of the adult definition of self: that you're not really regarded as an adult in this society unless you are living in your own independent household. That is not historically common in other cultures and other times.''

Numerous studies have pointed to cultural and ethnic differences regarding adult children living at home. Italian, Asian and Indo-Canadian communities, for example, are recognized as encouraging youths to stay in the home until marriage.

Copyright © 2002 National Post Online