Thursday, July 3, 2014

Millennial 20-somethings aren't actually more likely to live with their parents

More young people than ever are living in their parents' basements.

You've surely heard that one before. The Washington Post, the New York Times, the New Republic, Salon, and others have repeated it over and over in the last few years. More than 15.3 million twentysomethings—and half of young people under 25—live "in their parents’ home," according to official Census statistics.

There's just one problem with those official statistics. They're criminally misleading. When you read the full Census reports, you often come upon this crucial sentence:
It is important to note that the Current Population Survey counts students living in dormitories as living in their parents' home.

As you can see in the graph below, the share of 18-to-24-year-olds living at home who aren't in college has declined since 1986. The share of college students living "at home" is the one category that has increased. But, remember, "living at home" for a college student can mean "living in a dorm that for inexplicable reasons the Census considers your parents' house." Upshot: The Millennials-living-in-our-parents meme is almost entirely a result of higher college attendance.
--Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, on a survey artifact that became a meme