Boomerang Generation: Why The Kids Come Back After College


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Are you a member of the boomerang generation? Image by Decoded Science

What is the boomerang generation?

We use the term ‘Boomerang Kids’ to describe the generation of adults, ages 25-34, who have moved out on their own only to return, like a boomerang, to their parents’ home.

What’s behind this trend, and how does it affect our society today?

Workforce Changes Led to Unemployability

According to historian James Martin of Marquette University and the editor of the journal of the history of childhood and youth, in an interview with Adam Davidson of the New York Times,

“It wasn’t until the 1830s, as the U.S economy began to shift from subsistence agriculture to industry and markets, that life began to change slowly for little kids. Parents were getting richer, family sizes fell and,by the 1850s, school attendance was mandatory. By the end of the Civil War, much of American culture had accepted the notion that children under 13 should be protected from economic life, and child labor laws started emerging around the turn of the century.

During that era, roughly until the 1950’s ,we lived in a time where skilled trades were abundant and society valued skilled workers. Most positions required no degree and you received the training on the job.

Today, however, the workforce is much different. We live in a technologically-based economy. Businesses have replaced many skilled trades with computers and machines. Today, to progress in the workforce and get a job that pays a living wage, you must have at least an associate’s degree – a 4 year degree from an accredited university is even better. These degrees are now a necessity, and even higher education is continuing to be a requirement for a job, as today’s Master’s degree is yesterday’s Bachelor’s.

Boomerang Kids and the Great Recession

Boomerang kids are a perfect example of the repercussions to our economy since the “Great Recession.” Earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree paves your way into the job market, but it doesn’t guarantee you a secure seat.

According to the US Census statistics of 2011, 24 million people were enrolled in college – this is an increase of about 27% since the 1950’s.

As a sociologist, and therapist, my experience is that these adults are forced to return to live in their parent’s homes due to their inability to secure a job or position in their chosen career. The Boomerang kids and their parents, along with society at large, are trying to adjust to this increasingly common trend.

Even with the benefit of a degree, only roughly a third of all college graduates end up with a lifelong career, let alone the ability to make enough money to pay down their student loan debt.

Many think of this generation (current 24-34 year olds) as ‘entitled’ – saying they have no concept of hard work.

Fewer Opportunities, Overqualification

The truth is that there are fewer realistic opportunities for the boomerang generation. This I see a great deal of the time working in therapy. Many people come in with depression and anxiety due to lack of appropriate jobs for the well-educated. The parents of those graduates who cannot find a job are impacted as well.

The combination of a perceived lack of well-paid jobs and high rates of debt can lead to depression. Today we are seeing a later age for marriage and a later age for pregnancies – postponed life stages.

Economy, Jobs, and Life Stages

The economy and a lack of appropriate  jobs may not be causing this change in society, but it is something to think about. With piling debt, lack of appropriate pay-to-education ratio, and life in a post-industrial economy, is it any wonder that this generation has boomeranged back into their childhood home?

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