November 11, 2015

Record share of young women are living with their parents, relatives

Not Leaving the Nest: Women Living With Family Returns to 1940 Level

A larger share of young women are living at home with their parents or other relatives than at any point since the 1940s.

A new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that 36.4% of women ages 18 to 34 resided with family in 2014, mainly in the home of mom, dad or both. The result is a striking U-shaped curve for young women – and young men – indicating a return to the past, statistically speaking.

You’d have to go back 74 years to observe similar living arrangements among American young women. Young men, too, are increasingly living in the same situation, but unlike women their share hasn’t climbed to its level from 1940, the highest year on record. (Comparable data on living arrangements are not available from before then.)

Back in 1940, 36.2% of young women lived with their parents or relatives. That number dropped over the next couple of decades as marriage rates increased and women began joining the workforce in larger numbers, becoming financially able to live on their own.

US college enrollment men womenYoung adults were most likely to live independently of family around 1960, when just 24% stayed in the nest. But that figure modestly increased from 1960 to 2000 and then sharply increased after that, especially with the onset of the Great Recession in 2008. The labor market recovery since then has not reversed the trend – in fact, it’s become even more pronounced.

The reasons that more women today are living with mom and dad are far different from in the 1940s: Today’s young women are more likely to be college educated and unmarried than earlier generations of American women in their age group.

In the decade that brought the country into World War II, women typically lived with their parents until they married and only a small share attended college. Indeed, even in 1960, only 5% of 18- to 34-year-old women were college students. Today, women are five times more likely to be enrolled in college. According to 2014 figures, 27% of young women were college students.

College students – including those enrolled part-time and at community college – are significantly more likely to live with family than young adults who are not in college. In 2014, 45% of young females in college lived with family, compared with 33% of young females not in college.

Average age American women get marriedFurthermore, while marriage typically promotes living independently of parents and other relatives, many young women are delaying marriage compared with earlier decades. In 2013, young women were half as likely to be married (30%) as young women in 1940 (62%). Census figures show that in 2014, the typical woman began her first marriage at age 27. In 1940, it was 21.5.

Remaining in the nest is also a trend for young men – in fact, even more so when compared with their female peers. Last year, 42.8% of young men lived with their family, a higher share than women but not one that surpasses the highest rates on record like the women’s share does.

In 1940, nearly half (47.5%) of male 18- to 34-year-olds lived with family. Why? It’s likely that the lingering effects of the Great Depression may have contributed to the high level of male co-residence with family. The national unemployment rate for those ages 14 and older in 1940 was nearly 15%. By comparison, the national unemployment rate (for those 16 years and older) peaked during the Great Recession at 9.6% in 2010.

Note: The Census data used in this analysis do not classify college students living in dormitories as living with their parents. Such students are classified as living in group quarters and living independently of family. You can download more detailed age breaks here (.xlsx) on young women and men living with family from 1940 to 2014. 

Topics: Gender, Marriage and Divorce, Household and Family Structure, Educational Attainment

  1. Photo of Richard Fry

    is a senior researcher focusing on economics and education at Pew Research Center.


  1. Susan Clark2 years ago

    This topic is a good one – but I think it needs to look at this a) by geography to understand differences in housing affordability; and b) educational attainment and student debt. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and know several young women in their late 20’s/early 30’s who have to live with parents due to grad school debt.

  2. J W2 years ago

    You fail to mention the predominance of the family farm in the time leading up to the war years. Sons and daughters both stayed home to work the family business until they became part of a family of their own. There was also no Social Security or other safety nets to support Mom and Dad if they could not work the farm themselves. A lot of married couples “stayed home” for these reasons as well. It was a far, far different world – too different to give much if any significance to these numbers.

  3. Becky2 years ago

    What you don’t address – why they are living at home – is an area of interest to me. I am in the mortgage lending industry and find that many women are unable to afford owning their own home. In fact my study of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data shows that women are more likely to be rejected than men when applying for a mortgage. I would be interested in discussing this further if you have the time.

  4. Patty2 years ago

    You really needed a study for this? It’s been that way for a while. Otherwise you wouldn’t have all these stories in related news about the record low marriage rates and how “victimized” ALL females are when they don’t feel like taking responsibility for their bad choices on whatever issue. No doubt the economy is worse now, but those women still think they are Reality TV, Disney Princesses and that thing called reality is in the way of that. Might be a wise time to invest in pet food stocks for all the future bitter old spinsters with 90 cats.

  5. Leslie2 years ago

    Absence of military conscription (a draft) seems to have been a great influence for men, from 1973 onward – for living at home, college participation, work force participation.

  6. Leslie2 years ago

    Will be interesting to see if subsets of data for the same period as the Case-Deaton mortality study point to any relationship between family living situations and health for both children and parents in these households.

  7. Jude2 years ago

    I agree with Paulo. The title is misleading and should be changed. It could be perceived as a negative light on women. I find the college data interesting, and wonder what the data are for men living at home. It feels like the report isn’t really finished.

  8. Thundermutt Indy2 years ago

    The article and Mr. Fry’s comments below shift between the plural and the singular, “parents” and “parent”.

    I suspect that some deeper research might find these young folks living with an unmarried/uncoupled parent, rather than with both parents, as parents of the 18-34 demographic are the most-divorced generation in the US.

    My hypothesis is that these intergenerational living arrangements may be a partial replacement for marriage for both the parent and the child…perhaps providing the benefits of child care help for a working single mom of either generation, and lower overall living costs for both.

  9. Patrick Turner2 years ago

    Kind of hard to overthrow the patriarchy when your living under Daddy’s roof.

  10. Paulo Pinheiro2 years ago

    You could make the headline more generic, and make the difference in the article, or put a subtitle. As it is, one gets the idea it’s only women who are affected. Had I not read the article, I would have been mislead!

    This does not invalidate the analysis you made, of course.

  11. Bastiaan van der Bildt2 years ago

    Remarkable statistics, coming from the Netherlands myself I compared this with the “numbers” given by the Dutch Central Agency for Statistics. Though the percentage of both men and woman are significantly lower, the trend seems to be equally U-shaped.

  12. Larry Woods2 years ago

    Re: Curve “Young Women Today Are Half as Likely to Be Married as in 1940”

    Interesting that the slope starts it’s downward drift at about the same time that the Birth Control Pill was introduced as a contraceptive.

  13. Mike2 years ago

    it is a good trend for the young women, one would hope it is SAFFER for them to live witheir parents as they are entering working adulthood–but for the boys it shows a lack of maturity, responisability, and lazness ( I am an old fart, what can I say ). When I was 20, I was a Sgt in the Army, a squad leader. I suggest the ‘ boys ‘ grow up.

  14. Richard Hokenson2 years ago

    Very interesting analysis.

    what do the percentages look like for the age subgroups, e.g. 18-24,25-29 and 30-34?

    1. Richard Fry2 years ago

      Thanks. If you click on this link we posted the share of young adults living in the home of a parent or relative by age subgroups.

  15. brian laird2 years ago

    Interesting, good work. I had read about the change for men last year and completely missed the growth for women in my study. Women behavior is changing right along with the men’s.

  16. Blue Voodoo2 years ago

    If Ms. Hillary is elected double these numbers. As a female who thought my now ex-party (dem) would do some great things for women after G.W. PUDDLES Bush left the oval office, I’m so unequivocally disappointed. Both parties are a pariah on the people. My MBA might as well be a degree in egg candling.

    1. Crissa Kentavr2 years ago

      MBA is not a degree with any connection to earnings potential. It’s always been a degree for rich people’s children to get. Liberal Arts degree holders are more likely to be employed, when controlled for parents’ income.

  17. Martin Johnson2 years ago

    Funny how you bury the lede by exclaiming over the number of women living at home, when so many more men are living at home. Twenty-five % more men live at home, but it is all about the little wimmenz.

    1. Chris Thompson2 years ago

      Their point was that the % of women living at home now is higher than what was reported in 1940. The % of men living at home is still ~5% less than what it was in 1940. The fact that a greater percentage of men of that age group live at home is not really news, given that men have always been more likely to live at home than women. and that the relative % difference between men and women living at home has barely changed since 1940.

    2. Crissa Kentavr2 years ago

      But the number of men has always been more… And the men haven’t returned to 1940 levels yet.