One in five people in their 20s and early 30s is currently living with his or her parents. And 60 percent of all young adults receive financial support from them.
Welcome to the new reality in America, which won’t be going away any time soon. It used to be a sign of failure, but it’s now rapidly becoming normalized. Back in the 60s and early 70s, most kids in their 20s were out of the house and on their own. A lot of them were even married. What changed all of that was mostly a combination of economics and dogma.
The dogma was that all kids had to go to college; once out, they’d be pulling down big cash in no time. Omitted from that equation, however, was that the degree obtained actually had to be useful. It took me nearly two years to figure that out; I’d long been interested in anthropology, and spent the first couple of years at Knox College on a trajectory toward an anthro degree. Then I finally woke up and took stock of the situation, and realized that save for one guy, everyone I knew who had an anthro degree was waiting tables – and that one guy who wasn’t doing that was digging out Scandinavian privies in northern Illinois.
That’s when I hit the reset button and directed my energies into bio/psych. Operant conditioning , it became clear, would prove useful in animal work. It also became clear that most psych majors were into it because they, themselves, were hopelessly screwed up. Likely, they were hoping to figure out why they were so screwed up.
So I dropped the psych part and forged ahead in biology/mammology, which turned out to be a pretty good move. By age 22, I had more or less figured out a suitable path, but many of the kids today can’t quite seem to manage it, as 27 year-old Annie illustrates:
Kasinecz admits that she fears that her mom’s house in Downers Grove, Ill., half an hour west of the city, has become a crutch. She has been living in that old bedroom for four years and is nowhere closer to figuring out what she’s going to do with her career. “Everyone tells me to just pick something,” she says, “but I don’t know what to pick.”
By the time I was Annie’s age, I was not only living on my own (and had been for years) but I’d also won a national award for excellence in my field, which certainly doesn’t hurt one’s career options. Annie may eventually find something to “pick”, but if her degree has no relevance, it’s going to be exceptionally difficult – and it won’t get any easier as she ages.
And that brings us to the other part of the combination: economics.
When I began bumbling along on my path, I had a total of a little over $6,000 in student loan debt, due to receiving scholarships and grants. Yet while those are still available as resources, many of today’s kids end up with $60,00 to $80,000 or more in student loan debt. They seem to have a propensity for making bad decisions; who crawls out from under a debt of that magnitude with a degree in womens’ studies or art history?
College costs have skyrocketed in part because they’ve been allowed to do so and also in part because so many pay for perfessers to teach some really stupid stuff, like that guy at Portland State who teaches a class on Marxism. They have dozens of perfessers teaching equally valueless stuff that do nothing to prepare the kids for life in the marketplace. And in so doing, they’re failing the kids while charging them through the nose for the privilege.
The result is mush-heads with no skills and crushing debt and no clue, so they end up moving back in with Mommy and Daddy until they can “sort things out”. And this phenomenon is going to be continuing for a long time to come.