Boom(erang) Time?

An analysis of younger adults living with their parents

Published June 2021; revised July 2021. 

Since the onset of Covid-19, news stories have frequently documented anecdotes about ‘boomerangers’ – young, remotely-working professionals who left their city flats to enjoy the relative space and comfort of their parents’ homes. In a newly-commissioned representative survey of UK adults, we find that slightly fewer respondents were living with their parents in June 2021 than before the start of the pandemic, while other data sources suggest an increase in the share doing so.  Those younger people who have experienced a negative employment shock since the pandemic broke out were more likely to have moved back in with their parents than those who were in work before and during the crisis.

A key reason why our survey does not find an even larger share of younger respondents moving back to the parental home is that the types of young respondents whose employment was most affected by the pandemic were already living with their parents before it hit. Non-graduates, those who worked in hardest-hit sectors and those on lower levels of pay going into the crisis were more likely to move back than their better-off counterparts.

This is not a coincidence: even before the pandemic, young people with weak labour market positions were more likely to live with their parents than their better-off counterparts. Figures from the ONS Labour Force survey show that on the eve of Covid-19, the share of younger workers on atypical contracts that lived with their parents was higher than their counterparts on more stable employment contracts; those on lower pay were more likely to do so than their better-paid counterparts. Moreover, economically disadvantaged younger adults have become increasingly likely to live with parents over time. Some of this will have been driven by changes to tax and benefit policies, which coupled with fast rises in housing costs, have made moving out of the parental home increasingly challenging.

Living with your parents as a younger adult is not inherently good or bad, and like much in life, it will depend on personal circumstances. But where deteriorating economic conditions leave increasing cohorts of young people with few options but to do so, policy makers should begin to pay attention.