Movin’ on up and Movin’ on Home: Millennials Returning Home
Graduation season has just passed, and many new graduates are faced with a series of important life changing decisions. In addition to starting new careers and/or continuing on with their education, most also have to figure out where they are going to live.
Very few new high school and college graduates are in the position to, or even want to, move out on their own. Some return home to their families, while others have simply never left home. Young adults make the decision to return home for a variety of reasons, typically either financial (as they want to save some money), cultural (as some groups expect adult children to live at home until they are married), or to provide some sort of help or support to family members who might be ill.
Whatever the reason for their return, we often focus on how adult offspring feel about returning home, as opposed to the impact that this move has on the parents. Adult children living at home and the effect this has on parents has gained new attention with the story of Michael Rotondo, the 30-year-old who was recently sued by his parents to move out of their home.
For those of you unfamiliar with the case, Rotondo is a 30-year-old Syracuse man who moved in with his parents eight years ago after falling on some hard financial times. In recent months Rotondo’s parents requested that he leave, frustrated by his reported lack of desire to move out, coupled with not doing chores or contributing substantially to the household. They sent him five written notices first nudging, then requesting, and finally demanding that he move out over the course of several months, eventually choosing to seek out legal counsel to resolve the matter.
In addition to offering him $1,100 to help him move out, they also offered him some advice about moving out and a bit of encouragement, “There are jobs available even for those with a poor work history like you. Get one - you have to work!” At their wits end, Rotondo’s parents decided to leave the matter up to the courts. On March 22, the judge in the case gave Rotondo one week to move out or have sheriff’s deputies forcibly remove him. Rotondo plans to appeal his conviction and spent the days after his case appearing on news outlets pleading his case. Recently, Rotondo has even received a job offer and a signing bonus from a restaurant, and Infowars host, Alex Jones, offered $3,000 to help him move out. As of this writing, Rotondo had moved out of his parents’ home and is living in an AirBnB.
Unsurprisingly, this case has received a lot of attention in large part because Rotondo serves as the cautionary tale for every adult child who moves back home with their parents. For many, he represents the stereotypical, entitled millennial who refuses to get a job and live on his own. Ironically, in one of his many interviews, Michael explained that he does not identify himself as a millennial, instead describing himself as a conservative, incorrectly associating millennials with a political ideology rather than a specific age category.
While this case is not the first of an adult child being kicked out of their parents’ home (nor will it be the last), for sociologists this case is fascinating for a number of reasons. Beyond it just being an interesting family drama, it also provides a great example of how larger social forces, or what sociologist C. Wright Mills would called public issues, impact his notion of personal troubles. Essentially, with the Rotondo family drama, we see how a lack of employment opportunities (according to Michael) and few resources forced him to live with his parents and prevent him from moving out on his own. Although not being sued by their parents, many millennials are in a similar position as Rotondo, as over 1/3 are living with their parents and many are unemployed or underemployed, more than any other generation in American history.
Often referred to as boomerang kids – as they leave home for college or to start careers and have families and after graduating or the failure of a marriage or unemployment, they are forced to move back home – many millennials see the opportunity to move back home as the chance to save up money and help them get on their feet.
The housing crisis of 2008 had a negative impact on the nation and a particularly negative impact on millennials who were just graduating from college saddled with debt, with few job opportunities and increased cost of living compared to other generations. Not only are Millennials (those born between 1980-1998) less likely to own homes compared to Boomers (those born between (1946-1964) and Generation X (those born between 1965-1979), they are also more likely to put off getting married, having children, and saving for retirement.
An NBC News poll found that only 22% of millennials in the study were debt free, almost half had credit card debt, and over 1/3 had student loan debt. Perhaps not surprisingly, this study found that the group of millennials with the most student loan debt were African American millennials. With most millennials living in debt, it is ironic that the group most commonly found to complain about the “entitled millennial” who won’t get a job and get out of the house are the Baby Boomers, who are actually seen by many as the generation responsible for the financial situations in which these millennials find themselves.
Now, it is important to note that many adults chose to return home or never leave home for reasons beyond financial resources or a lack of opportunities. In fact, for most people outside of the U.S. and non-Whites, living with parents is commonplace. Many do this for cultural reasons, while others simply don’t see a problem with living at their parent’s home. In fact, recently, actor Michael B. Jordan, star of one of the largest box office films in history, The Black Panther, revealed that he lives at home with his parents. Although he was quick to note that he bought his parents a mansion, moved in, and plans to move out “soon.”
In the end, the Rotondo family drama has revived conversations concerning what it means to live at home for both parents and their adult children. Whether or not Michael represents the entitled millennial who gets to live at home for free and even gets jobs offers and offers of financial help by fighting his parents’ eviction, this case has also encouraged discussions on the impact that the economy has on the life chances of an entire generation.