Breaking tradition?

I just came across a report the Pew Research Center released a couple weeks ago. It’s titled “For First Time in Modern Era, Living With Parents Edges Out Other Living Arrangements for 18- to 34-Year-Olds,” with the subtitle “Share living with spouse or partner continues to fall.” The PRC is nothing if not specific in their titles…

Feel free to read through it yourself – it’s quite interesting – but the first thing I noticed was the obvious spike in the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds married or cohabiting in their own household in 1960 (62 percent), compared to the record-high percentage of the same age group living alone, single parents or other heads of household in 2014 (14 percent). Both percentages were the highest for their category in the 134-year time period.


In three of the four other graphs illustrated in the article (men compared to women living with parents or married/cohabiting, not college-educated compared to college-educated living with parents or married/cohabiting), there is a dramatic decrease in 1960 of the percentage of 18- to 34-year-olds living with their parents and a subsequent dramatic increase in that age group married/cohabiting.

To me, these figures challenge the perceived notion of “tradition.”

Whether it was explicitly said or just implied while growing up, I think most of us millennials realized we were supposed to get out of the house after high school or college and be on our own. The parenthetical addition to that was to be married.

However, history seems to indicate that the 1960s was the only time period in the past 134 years that at least 30 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds (the same age group as 2014’s millennials) have not lived with their parents. In fact, the combined total of that age group living with a spouse/partner or alone/single parent was almost exactly the same in 2014 as those combined totals in 1880 and 1940.

Note that 1940 – not 2014 – had the highest percentage of that age group living with their parents at 35 percent.

The 1960s – the time of the “traditional” American Way – was the outlier, according to this research.

As far as Monica’s Opinion, I’m a fan of young people getting out on their own since we arguably have more living options available in the 2010s than 18- to 34-year-olds had in 1880 and 1940. If they weren’t married back then (granted, I have no hard data to back this up, just anecdotes from my late grandparents and others), there was no reason to leave the family farm or the family business or the family, for that matter. Their work was probably nearby, and there wasn’t a desperate rush to “find themselves” by moving away. It was either keep working, or get a spouse and house. And keep working.

The 2010s seem to be the first time in history (according to the PRC’s time frame) that a good chunk of 18- to 34-year-olds are getting out of the house before marriage (more than quadruple the percentage of that age group living alone in 1880 and 1940). While it’s historically unusual, I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I can speak to the fact that living on your own can teach you about managing time, money, bills, household cleaning, cooking, safety and a number of other things. Not only will you be a functioning human being in society, your future spouse (if you have one) won’t think you’re a helpless infant of a person. Sure, you can learn those things in your parents’ house, but it’s not quite the same.

The downside to living alone is that you can develop a schedule, structure and way of doing things without answering to anyone that becomes hard to compromise if or when you decide to settle down with someone who has his or her own schedule, structure and way of doing things without answering to anyone. Meeting in the middle (or giving in on some things) can be a struggle, but if a couple does it well, the struggle can lead to a healthier relationship. I’ve witnessed that firsthand, too.

The 1960s was a strange time in history. The politics. The society. The goals. Everything, even living arrangements. So if you’re 30 and still live at home, you’re in good company, historically speaking. But still…start trying to get outta there. It’s a new era.


5 Replies to “Breaking tradition?”

  1. The movie “Failure To Launch” comes to mind. Economics and opportunity are keeping kids back in their childhood bedrooms or in the basement. Combined resources can be a good thing for a family but it can cause tensions.

    Liked by 1 person

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