New research has revealed that nearly one million more young adults are living with their parents now than over 20 years ago. The research, conducted by Civitas, an independent think-tank, reveals that the proportion of young people, defined as those aged between 20 and 34, living at home swelled to 26% in 2017, an increase of seven percentage points from 1998. The shift in lifestyle was particularly pronounced amongst 23 year olds, almost half of whom were living at home two years ago.
Brits that do manage to move out are something of an anomaly in Europe, in that they’re less likely to live alone. Around 30% of UK households are ‘single-person’, a figure that’s remained static since 2008, compared to 45% in Norway and 40% in Germany, percentages that have both grown in the last decade. Indeed, in historical terms, young adults in the UK have been good at flying the nest, with average household size falling steadily since the 1970s. That changed with the turn of the millennium, which saw the average number of people per household stall and eventually start going in the other direction, increasing for the last ten years or so; Civitas’s report revealed the 2017 average household size as 2.39 people, the highest number since 1999.
In identifying the causes of this change, Civitas’s paper – rather ominously titled “Rise and Fall” – is wary of coming down too strong on one explanation or the other. It touches on a range of theories, citing the work of sociologists who examined youth unemployment – which has got worse since the 2007 financial crash – and how higher education has delayed ‘family formation’, reducing the need for young people to get a house of their own. The paper also mentions how house prices have increased at a greater rate than wages, making a mortgage further and further out of reach for first-time buyers, especially those tied up in student debt.
A number of Newcastle University students from the local area choose to stay living at home and commute to the campus on a daily basis rather than move into university accommodation or private rented housing. Alongside the convenience of living at home, the high cost of rent compared to funding from Student Finance is often a driving factor behind the decision to stay living in the family home.
Fourth year German student Madison Lowes, who lives with her parents near Fenham, said, “I chose to live at home this year because it seemed like the best thing to do financially. Even though I receive less student loan by living at home, I don’t have to pay for things such as rent or food so I am saving a lot of money. In second year I lived out with friends and that was great however I had to work at least two shifts a week in order to be able to pay for food and rent [Maddy lived in Jesmond and paid approximately £450 per month in rent]. Now I can work as much or as little as I want to.”
Fourth year German and History student Sophie Roberson similarly recognised financial constraints as contributing considerably towards her decision to study at Newcastle whilst living at home. “One of the main reasons I chose to study at Newcastle was because I live so close to the university campus that it did not seem financially beneficial to move out, especially as I did not receive enough student loan to cover the cost of student accommodation rent. I still feel as though I have had a great student experience but believe that by not moving out it has limited this experience as a whole.”
The trend of students commuting to university from home is however not just the case in Newcastle. Lauren Willis, graduate of English Literature from Royal Holloway University, is currently studying for a Graduate Diploma in Law at BPP and commutes daily from her family home in Guiseley, Leeds. “The main reason I chose to live back at home this year is because renting is so expensive. I would have had to take out loans or money from savings. The specific postgraduate course I am studying does not qualify for postgraduate government maintenance grants, which is very frustrating. I am lucky to have a home that is quite near the city centre, I can get to university within 30 minutes. At first I struggled with moving in back at home after looking after myself for three years. I needed my own time and space. However, after having a few conversations about it, my family seem to understand more now. Many of my friends are either still at university or have jobs and are living my themselves. I am quite jealous of this, but I know that it won't be long until I can do the same.”
It would seem, ultimately, that flying the nest is hard when the bird’s saddled with high house prices and thousands of pounds’ worth of debt.