She’s leaving home – bye bye: or maybe not!

Photo credit: Stefan

More than a quarter of young adults in the UK now live with their parents, according to figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Other recent research has also shown that increasing numbers of young adults are returning home after leaving, a concept commonly known as ‘boomeranging’.

So what are the key drivers for this apparent societal change? And is it a long term or a temporary trend that this week’s improved unemployment figures and an improving economy might play a role in reversing? Christine Garrington investigates some of the evidence for Society Central.

More than 3.3 million adults between the ages of 20 and 34 were living with parents in 2013. The number has increased by a quarter, or 669,000 people, since 1996. This is despite the fact that the number of 20 to 34-year-olds in the UK remains almost the same.

In 1996, the earliest year for which comparable statistics are available, there were 2.7m 20 to 34-year-olds living in the family home – 21% of the age group at that time.

This is despite the fact that the number of 20 to 34-year-olds in the UK remains almost the same, the ONS said.


Recently Professor Ann Berrington from the Centre for Population Change at the University of Southampton made use of the British Household Panel Survey to look at some of the key turning points for young adults to return home.

In an interview for the Understanding Society Podcast Series, she explained what those turning points were and also the differences between men and women relying on their parents for accommodation.

The ONS also found young men were more likely to live at home than women. One in three men live with their parents, compared with one in five women.


Professor Berrington’s research, recently published in the journal Demography, also looked at the differences between men and women returning to live home with mum and dad. While the research showed that young women going off to university to study were just as likely as young men to return afterwards, the picture was different when it came to the break up of a relationship, especially where children were involved.


Young adults have been hit hardest by unemployment in the downturn, and the figures suggest this has been a factor behind increasing numbers staying in the family home. Between April and June 2008, 13% of the economically active population aged 18-24 was unemployed, a figure that had increased to 19% by the same period of 2013.

As well as the ongoing effects of the recession and student debt, there  is also the question of affordable housing, says ONS senior researcher Karen Gask:

“That’s been cited by several academics who’ve looked into it. It’s hard for young people to get on the housing ladder.”

The ratio of house prices paid by first time buyers to their annual incomes has risen from 2.7 to 4.47 in the period from 1996 to 2013, she added, adding that many were delaying settling down with a partner, choosing to stay with family instead.

It would seem that many young adults are thinking it may be worth sacrificing some social freedoms in order to save some money to help them afford a place of their own in the future. But if the trend continues there are longer terms questions which might arise says Karen Gask:

“There are wider implications for things like fertility rates, as people often look to move out of the parental home before having children.”

While some say there are glimmers of hope when it comes to the housing market, with all groups recognising that something has to give, Professor Berrington implies that generation boomerang is here to stay for the foreseeable future. The same would seem to apply to those young adults who don’t leave home in the first place.

It will be important to continue tracking this societal shift, its triggers and its impacts over time if we are to fully understand the  implications for policy makers as well as young people and their parents.

Nathan’s story

Go to university they said, you’ll finish and be able to get any job you want they said. The truth is somewhat different to what university students are lead to believe. Throughout university we were constantly bombarded with statistics regarding how graduates receive better jobs with higher salaries and with greater ease.

In addition we were actively encouraged to apply for as many graduate schemes as possible and aim for the best jobs out there, which is understandable. However the one thing that they didn’t prepare us for was the bleak reality of the current job market and what to expect once we graduate.

In June 2013 I moved back in with my parents in Kent as the contract on my house in my university town ran out and I was faced with no other option. As I did a study year abroad I had already seen some of my peers graduate and living at home comfortably with their parents, I knew that this was something that I did not want to do and gave myself a deadline to move out by my graduation (The end of July).

I found myself endlessly applying for graduate jobs and failing at various stages along the route, I even made it to an assessment centre which was more like an episode of The Apprentice with candidates encouraged to argue against each other in a boardroom style environment. My situation worsened and I found myself desperate for work and seeking an escape from my parents’ home. This was based on the fact that I had spent the last 4 years as an independent person and now felt like I was being treated like a child again.

Clashes with my father were near enough a daily basis which lead me to want to get out even more. By this point I was applying for in between 20-50 jobs per week and nothing was coming through.

The longer I stayed at home the more depressed I became, especially when I began to compare myself to friends who left school at 16 or 18 and who now had worked themselves up within their organisations and were living independently with good jobs, cars etc. I began to question my decision about going to university in the first place as all employers seemed to want was real-life work experience and the part-time jobs I held whilst being a student didn’t seem to be enough.

My situation has now changed (From January 2014) as I managed to secure a 3 month internship for a great company in my university town. However I do worry that after I complete this 3 month internship if I don’t find some more work that I will end up living back with my parents and getting stuck back in the bubble of frustration and unhappiness once again.

One thought on “She’s leaving home – bye bye: or maybe not!”

Leave a Reply