“The Boomerang Generation”

There was a fantastic article in last week’s New York Times that got picked up all around North America, and I actually heard about it first on the John Tory radio show.

“The Boomerang Generation” refers to kids who leave the house to go to school, but then turn around and come right back to live at home when they’re done.

I’m tempted to say that this is nothing new, since kids were doing this when I was in my early 20’s, but it seems now that kids simply expect to come home and be supported by mom and dad.

Whatever happened to renting a cheap basement apartment and eating Kraft Dinner?


One in five people in their 20’s or early 30’s is currently living with his or her parents.

60% of them receive financial support from their parents.

These were the two most shocking statistics I read in the New York Times’ article entitled “It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave Home,” which you can read in full HERE.

Granted, this article contains American content, and the cost of university and college in the U.S.A. is absolutely obscene.

The cost to attend McMaster University for business school in 2014-15 is $9,290.

The cost to attend the University of Southern California for business school in 2014-15 is $43,722.

I picked those two schools at random, and while I’m sure there are many more affordable schools in the United States, we all know that it costs the “average” student in the United States far, far more than it costs us.

Nevertheless, we have the same problem here in Canada with Generation-Y going off to university or college, and then actually planning on returning home to live with mom and dad until they get off their feet.

Once upon a time, your Dad shook your hand on the front steps of the house when you turned 18-years-old, and said, “Good luck, son.”

Well, it’s not the 1950’s anymore.

But as the Times article says, 1/5 kids today returns home after university, whereas that number was 1/10 a generation ago.  If this trend continues, will kids ever move out?

The Times article blames income inequality for part of this trend, suggesting that each generation used to get richer than the previous, but that this is no longer the case:

“People in the top 20 percent of income — roughly $100,000 in 2013 — have taken nearly all the economic gains of the past 40 years.”

Perhaps that’s part of it, but can’t we also blame a shift in societal values?  Can’t we blame the current generation and their lack of ambition and motivation?  I certainly don’t want to paint the whole generation with the same brush, but after listening to some callers on the John Tory show, I’m convinced that many of today’s youth feel entitled to come home after university and “take it easy.”

My cleaning lady is a single mother to a 15-year-old boy, who told her the other day, “When I’m finished high school, I want to take a couple years off just to relax.  You have no idea how hard high school is.”

These kids have no clue what the real world is going to be like.

Now having said all of this, I might be the first to encourage a 21-year-old to live at home to save money, but that’s different than living at home to play Nintendo while not searching for a job!

I took a lot of flak for my quotes in Rob Carrick’s article in the Globe & Mail a couple weeks back, but I think that for a 21-year-old to go out and buy a condo and take on the debt associated with it might make a lot less sense than living at home, paying some rent to mom and dad, and saving a whack of cash.

Here’s what one 20-year-old recently told me in an email:

“I’ve looked at the numbers a few times (primitively, I’m no accountant or real estate expert) and I know it makes more sense to rent first or even live at home, but it’s hard to put your pride aside. You want to be the first one of your friends to own a condo downtown, you want to own the nicest condo, etc. It’s stupid, but it is just the way it is. On top of that, the instant gratification nature of my generation.”

That’s about the most honest assessment I can think of, coming from a 20-year-old, speaking about his generation.  This is the more upscale segment of the generation, but you see where the thought process is.  At least this kid is motivated to get out of his parents house, and pride is that motivator!

On the flip side, many of today’s youth have no pride, and even less shame.

Moving out of their parents’ house is the last thing on their mind – after getting a job, of course.

One caller to the John Tory show the other day blamed “all the businesses” for only giving out 12-month contracts instead of permanent positions.  Well, gee, wouldn’t it be great if every company, everywhere, gave out lifetime positions, with benefits, so we could all retire at 55 and live comfortably like people did in the 1950’s?

Another caller said it was his “right” to live in Toronto, since he works in Toronto, and wouldn’t consider living in Mississauga, Markham, etc, where the rent is cheaper, and commuting to work each day.

Whatever happened to “roughing it?”

I think we can argue both sides of the coin here, which clearly, I am.

But there’s a difference between 20-somethings not moving out of their parents’ houses because they can’t afford to, and not doing so because they don’t want to.

The Times article suggests it’s the former, and leaves the latter unexplored.

Perhaps American 20-somethings are just drowning in debt far more than Canadians?  The way income inequality is down there, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least…


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  1. Cherie says:

    There are several factors that contribute to boomerang kids returning home. Among them are money issues, employment problems, and unrealistic expectations. Parents can be an asset to providing help for their young ones and by not making them feel like a failure. I found this article to be helpful in providing helpful advice for parents as well as young people.


  2. Kyle says:

    I think in every generation there will be over and under achievers, but one thing is for sure – real estate prices are a lot more than we’ve ever seen, and i think people of every generation are struggling to mentally adjust to that reality. That same inability to grasp and accept reality, and entitled attitude shows just as much in Gen X and Boomer real estate bears who think they deserve a single family home in the core of North America’s 4th largest metropolis, as it does in Millenials who think they deserve a condo three years out of school, just because that’s what could have been expected in years past.

  3. jeff316 says:

    I feel for kids these days. We send them very mixed messages.

    We tell them to enjoy their youth, to make the most of being young. It never gets better than this! This is your time!

    Then, the clock strikes 13 (or grade 12, I guess these days) and it’s Get out! Experience life! Grow up! And so we shoo them out the door at a time when their earnings are low and costs are high, a time when they probably should be staying at home if at all possible.

    At the end of school we tell them This is it! The ride’s over! Grow up! Be an adult! Yet we’ve sent them out the door into a world where most of them won’t have the opportunities to “grow up” according to our expectations, and thenwe express surprise and disgust when they come back at a later date, burdened with debt, with few employment prospects and a need for support.

    Personally, I’ve always found the “you’re 18, get out” to be more of a mangiacake myth – sure, many cultures are much more accepting of kids at home (as well as multi-generational families) and in these cultures to move out young is not only seen as unnecessary but also financially foolish.

    1. AndrewB says:

      Why would they want to rent and rough it when they can stay at home, rent free, and buy luxurious things like 800 dollar Canada Goose jackets and $300 tabs at a downtown night club? My generation has such poorly analyzed priorities (I’m 25). When I was living at home, I had to pay rent and utilities when I finished cool. I stayed at home to pay off debt and save up a mortgage downpayment. I think for most people my age though, home ownership is the last thing on their mind. It comes down to many issues, as many have already mentioned above.

      Everyone going into school for IMO, degrees that don’t provide a great return on investment and they are left with BA’s and tens of thousands in student debt and hopefully, a starting salary that barely pays down the debt fast enough. I agree with David though. Way too much entitlement in my generation. I started working as a kid doing newspapers then got my McJob at 15 and worked all through high school, university, full time in the summers to save tuition. I believe every kid should be working part time jobs starting in high school.

      1. AndrewB says:

        Was not meant to reply to you Scotty. Seems to have messed up.

  4. Amelia says:

    “Can’t afford it.” … Total BS. What you can’t afford is your parents home or lifestyle. The home and lifestyle you CAN afford is incongruent with how you see yourself. Why pay for something you see no value in, e.g. that crumby basement apartment? Especially when you can live at home for free or reduced rent, meals too! Although one could argue that what you don’t pay for in dollars gets paid for in other ways. Opportunity cost!

    You haven’t yet experienced what it feels like to be totally responsible for your own survival (fear and power!) Homelessness is something that happens to other people, not a genuine concern of yours. And you certainly haven’t experienced the absolute joy and control you get when you realize: I answer to no one. Perhaps you’ve been conditioned to not perceive freedom as a positive thing at all? Once you get a taste of true freedom, you’ll be out of the nest in no time. If you’re lucky enough to get a taste, that is. Parents enable. Children milk it. Not inherently good or bad. Just is.

  5. Joe Q. says:

    I find myself agreeing with A Grant. This is a multi-layered issue. To me, the central issue is that the days when 18-year-olds (men usually) set off to find their own way also the days when stable employment was easier to come by for young people. Since then, we not only have higher youth unemployment, but also “degree creep” (people with Masters degrees working in jobs that may once have required only a high-school diploma, etc.) The process of “launching” becomes expensive and out-of-reach.

    Add on top of that the idea that it’s better to continue to be a dependent of your parents well into your 20s, as long as you’re saving up to buy your own place (renting is for chumps and losers, after all). Finish off the whole thing with a extra helping of cultural attitudes that encourage young people to live at home until marriage, whether out of a sense of filial duty or sexual propriety, and the boomerang phenomenon doesn’t look so strange after all.

  6. Boris says:

    The entitled little shits of today… a “right” to live in Toronto? The only thing that gives any Ontarian the right to live in Toronto is having the wallet to buy/rent in the city.

    Capitalism, bitch.

  7. freude says:

    I know you picked the schools at random, but a more apt comparison would be for a Canadian school and the in-state tuition fee for a public american school (like UCLA, instead of a private school like USC).
    McMaster Resident tuition: $9,000
    McMaster International tuition: $16-22,000
    UCLA in-state tuition: $12,862
    UCLA non-resident tuition: $67,000

    1. Geoff says:

      Agreed, US schools and Canadian schools are closer in tuition costs than it appears, especially as they have better scholarship/loan programs than here. According to Macleans magazine, Americans actually graduate with less student debt than their Canadian counterparts: – See more at: http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2011/11/08/does-the-u-s-have-a-more-progressive-tuition-system/

      Getting back to the topic at hand, it totally has to do with expectations. I’m not so removed from the generation at hand (at 38) but absolutely there’s an expectation that not having the best (granite!) at 30 is failure. Ridiculous.

      But then again what is the point of getting older if not to complain about the generation following us?

      1. Joe Q. says:

        There are examples of “kids these days” rants that go back to Roman times.

  8. A Grant says:

    David, you may have answered your own question. You note that in the 1950s, you could expect “your Dad to shake your hand on the front steps of the house when you turned 18-years-old, and say, “Good luck, son.” While a gross simplification, seeing your son off at the door with a firm handshake was a lot easier in an era of “lifetime positions with benefits”

    Forgive the US statistics, but it wasn’t always this way. From the 1950s through 1970s, workers aged 25-54 had somewhat comparable employment to population ratios to young adults. However, starting in the 1980s, a significant difference in employment rates began to emerge. By the 1990s, about 10% more of the prime-age population was employed than of the young adult population. This difference increased to 14% by 2011.

    So, youth have fewer employment prospects (and what work is available is often not enough to pay the rent) and are saddled with enormous debt. Is it really any surprise that many can’t afford to move out? In fact, just last week I read an article about the top ten “tenets of a tenant” – I seem to recall the top three being “income, employment, and credit score”.