Is the boomerang generation of young adults a real phenomenon? Returning home in young adulthood in the UK

Juliet A. Stone, University of Southampton
Ann M. Berrington, University of Southampton
Jane C. Falkingham, University of Southampton

Young adults in the UK have tended to leave the parental home earlier than their European peers (Aassve et al. 2002;Billari et al. 2001) but are also more likely to return (Iacovou and Parisi 2009). Recent cross-sectional evidence (Stone et al. 2011) showed an increase in co-residence between parents and young adult children. There has been discussion in the British media about “boomerang children” (Bingham 2009;Waite 2008) but nationally representative, longitudinal data are required to disentangle the relative importance of postponement in first leaving and increased returns to the parental home. The British Household Panel Study includes individuals from 5500 households interviewed annually from 1991 to 2008. We pool data for individuals aged 16-34 with data from two consecutive waves who are living away from their parents in the first wave (t0), then calculate the proportion returning one year later (t1). We use individual-level, household-level and contextual variables in binary logistic regression analyses to investigate the determinants of returning home (Davanzo and Goldscheider 1990;Ermisch 1999;Goldscheider and Goldscheider 1998). We additionally use a cohort-based approach including young adults aged 16-17 years and living with their parents at baseline. We follow up these individuals for five years to investigate patterns of leaving and returning to the parental home. The paired-years analysis shows men are more likely to return home than women but over time, women have become more likely to return. ‘Turning-points’ such as union dissolution and becoming unemployed show strong, positive associations with returning home. The cohort-based approach indicates young adults living in a family with two natural parents are least likely to leave the parental home. For those with step-families or living with a lone parent, we see more complex patterns of leaving and returning, indicative of more chaotic pathways out of the parental home (Ford et al. 2002).

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Presented in Session 95: Migrants, migration, and family life

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