More young adults living with parents

Updated: 2013-08-09 00:04

By Chen Weihua (China Daily)

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To most Chinese people, the United States is a society where young people older than 18 either leave home on their own or get kicked out by their parents, a land where not being independent by a certain age is a source of shame.

Little wonder that a Pew Research Center survey released last week came as a big surprise. It shows that 36 percent of young American adults aged 18 to 31 — the so-called Millennial generation — were living in their parents' home in 2012.

This is the highest proportion in at least four decades and represents a slow but steady increase from the 32 percent recorded prior to the financial crisis of 2007 and the 34 percent when the crisis officially ended in 2009.

The study found that a record 21.6 million Millennials lived in their parents' home in 2012, up from 18.5 million in 2007.

College students who live in dorms during the school year are also counted as living with their parents, and they account for a third to half of the 21.6 million.

Men are more likely than women to live with their parents, 40 percent versus 32 percent. The gender gap has been consistent over the years.

Richard Fry, author of the report, described the growing number of young adults who live in their parents' home as being driven by a combination of economic, educational and cultural factors.

In 2012, only 63 percent of 18- to 31-year-olds had jobs, compared with 70 percent of their peers who had jobs in 2007.

In 2012, 45 percent of unemployed Millennials lived with their parents, compared with 29 percent of those who were employed.

Aside from the job factor, the study found that 39 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds were enrolled in college, up from 35 percent in March 2007.

And those enrolled in colleges were much more likely to be living at home than those not in college.

Declining marriage rates were also a factor. In 2012, just 25 percent of Millennials were married, compared with 30 percent of the age group in 2007.

Unmarried Millennials are much more likely than married Millennials today to be living with their parents — 47 percent versus only 3 percent.

While American young people are forced to stay with their parents due to poor economic growth, a large number of young Chinese adults who still depend on their parents financially are under attack.

Twenty years ago, it was virtually impossible for most young adults in China to leave their parents because of low living standards, severe housing shortages and extensive government restrictions on social mobility.

All these factors have changed dramatically in the past two decades, as more young people can afford to buy or rent their own apartments. The lifting of some government restrictions on the free flow of population also makes it easier for young people to move around the country.

As a result, more and more young Chinese people live independently. And those still living with their parents are under growing pressure.

This is especially true of those young adults who not only live with their parents, but depend on them financially.

They are often called ken lao zu, or literally "bite the old", meaning living off their parents.

A survey conducted by the China Research Center of Aging shows that the phenomenon exists to some degree in 65 percent of Chinese families. About 30 percent of young adults still depend on their parents financially.

Many sociologists believe these young adults, mostly from one-child families, lack a sense of independence because they have been spoiled by their parents and grandparents over the years, often treated like "little emperors".

High housing costs and living expenses, especially in big cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, and the growing challenge of finding a job after college have also contributed to the trend.

Wang Yujun, an official with the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, said over the weekend that of China's 7 million college graduates this year, 3 million (or 43 percent) may not immediately land a job. In the past, some 70 percent of college graduates had secured a job upon graduation.

In Jiangsu province, some legislators have put forward a bill to grant parents the right to refuse to support their children financially if the children are capable of living independently.

However, in many cases, the arrangement seems to be far from problematic, and there is even some synergy between the cohabiting generations.

Lu Lu, a 31-year-old married woman who is self-employed, prefers to live with her parents in Shanghai. "It saves a lot of trouble preparing meals and doing other household chores. And my parents want me to stay, too," she said.