The Denver Post – By John Wenzel – Like millions of Americans in less-than-ideal living arrangements, Rebecca Treon has tried to focus on the positive aspects of moving back in with her mother for the first time since she was a teenager.
“You start to see the advantages around the six-month mark, after that ugly readjustment phase is over,” said 40-year-old Treon, who for the past year and a half has lived with her mother in the Littleton house where she was raised.
“I love the bonds my kids have with their grandma. And when my daughter gets out of school at 3:15 and my son at 3:30, she can pick one of them up while I get the other. Same with ballet and lacrosse — which are always at the same time in different places.”
Despite the fact that Colorado and other states saw an increase in income and a decrease in poverty rates between 2014 and 2015, more young adults are living with their parents than at any time in the past 130 years, according to recent national studies.
The U.S. Census Bureau’sAmerican Community Survey, released on Sept. 15, revealed that 34.1 percent of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. lived in their parents’ home in 2015. New Jersey had the highest amount at 46.9 percent, while North Dakota had the lowest at 14.1 percent.
Colorado falls in the middle at 24.6 percent — meaning 316,983 of the state’s 1.3 million 18-34 year-olds are living with their parents. The percentage remains the same for the Denver metro area.
That rate drops to 5 percent nationally for 35-64 year-olds, and 3 percent in Colorado for that age group.
That may explain why Treon, an editor at Dining Out magazine, feels more of a stigma around living in her childhood home. She cannot afford to live independently on her combined editing-and-freelance income of $45,000 per year. And when Treon’s ex-husband lost his job at a Colorado oil company in the midst of their expensive, protracted divorce, she opted to let him stay in their formerly shared house in Littleton.
“It’s a sacrifice for me, but when I look at my son and daughter I think I could live with mom indefinitely if it’s going to put them in a beneficial place,” said Treon, who shares custody of her children with her ex-husband. “But I’m in debt up to my eyeballs and I don’t know how or when that’s going to change. I could work myself to the bone and not have the financial stability that my parents had.”
With Colorado’s record population growth since 2010, metro-area homes and apartments have become more expensive and harder to find across the board.
“Housing was always a pretty stressful expense,” said Adam Goldstein, a 37-year-old writer and musician who scraped by on his own for nearly a decade, thanks in part to subsidized housing.
“When I got a better-paying gig at a school district two years ago, I faced a crisis that seemed pretty unique to Colorado. I was going to be making too much to stay (in affordable housing) in Lowry, and even though I could afford a down payment and a mortgage, it was by no means a buyer’s market.”
The solution: Goldstein put his furniture in storage and moved into his father’s basement in Aurora while he hunted for a house. The arrangement only lasted a few months, but living in his childhood home instantly affected Goldstein’s sense of identity.
“It’s funny how quickly you revert to teenage habits when you’re in that environment,” Goldstein said. “Needless to say, my dating life was on hold for those months, and I spent most of my free time trying to find the right property.”
Goldstein’s case has become more common over the past decade. The Great Recession may have accelerated its growth in some areas, but the rate of adults moving in with their parents had been climbing steadily prior to that — always with more men than women living at home, and always higher among 18-24 year-olds than 25-34 year-olds.
Census data were not available for ethnic or racial categories, but African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, are the most likely to be living in their parent’s home and the least likely to have a partner, according to aPew Research Center report from May.
Nationally, there is no single reason to explain the trend.
Young people are increasingly less likely to settle down and marry before the age of 35, according to Pew and U.S. Census data. The overall share of young adults who are married or living with an unmarried partner has substantially fallen since 1990, the Pew report said. Wages for young men have been on a downward trajectory since 1970 (after adjusting for inflation) and fell significantly from 2000 to 2010, according to Pew.
Video games, always the versatile boogeyman for social ills, are also to blame for the living-at-home trend, according to economists. A decades-long uptick in unemployment for young men has coincided with a sharp rise in screen time — with increasingly sophisticated games demotivating young men to look for work.
But sometimes it’s just as simple as convenience and familiarity. Former CU Buffs star Nelson Spruce recently moved back in with his parents in Westlake Village, Calif., after he joined the Los Angeles Rams.
“It’s been really convenient not having to look for a place to live, not needing to get familiar with the area,” Spruce told The Associated Presslast week. “It’s just taken that stress out of my life and helped me focus on what we’re doing here.”
When 31-year-old special-ed teacher Kelly Gault moved back in with her parents in Aurora to pay down her burdensome debt, she was able to nearly double the $400 monthly payments on her $95,000 in student loans, and pay off one of her credit cards entirely.
Less ideal was the fact that she had a boyfriend — soon to be a fiancé.
“Not that my parents are nosy, but just that idea of taking somebody back to your parents house is not so (attractive),” said Gault, who works for the St. Vrain School District. “And Sam is patient but he likes his quiet time, so it definitely humbled us.”
After two years of living with her parents, Gault and her now-husband managed to save enough money to buy their first home in Johnstown in September.
“Sam’s thing was that he didn’t want to cook meals while we were living there because it wasn’t his kitchen or his house,” Gault said. “But he has cooked dinner every night since we moved into our own home.”