Stay-at-Home Kids Considered Harmful

In an astonishing demographic shift, the number of new households being formed in the US has declined by 25% since the start of the Great Recession. The New York Times bemoans this:

Like most of her friends, Hollis Romanelli graduated from college last May and promptly moved back in with her parents. As a result, she didn’t pay rent — or a broker’s fee or renters’ insurance, for that matter. She also didn’t buy a bed, desk, couch, doormat, mop or new crockery set. Nor did she pay the cable company to send a worker to set up her TV and Internet, or a handyman to hang a newly framed diploma. She didn’t even buy drinks and snacks for a housewarming party.

“Increased housing demand definitely has multiplier effects throughout the economy,” said Gary D. Painter, a professor at the University of Southern California and director of research for the university’s Lusk Center for Real Estate. “We have these sort of missing potential households,” he said, which also means “missing” sales and jobs in industries like retail, construction and manufacturing.

Which means less resources demanded, less energy expended, closer-knit families. We are expected to treat this as a disaster. It is time we reconsidered this. Could less demand not be the solution that everybody is mistaking for a problem?


  1. Two comments:

    1) Who the heck, even in the boom times, paid a handyman to hang their college diploma on the wall? Srsly.

    2) Unless these students are either (a) saving all their money, rather than spending it on electronics, entertainment, etc. or (b) voluntarily unemployed or underemployed, then all the money they earn is going into the economy just as it would if they set up separate households; it's just going to different parts of the economy (e.g., the Apple store, iTunes, etc.) than if they set up housekeeping on their own.

    If the money is earned, then either it's saved or spent, and if it's spent I don't see how spending it on rent, furniture, and appliances is any better from a macroeconomic perspective than spending it on other things. So the story only makes sense if the kids are either saving like crazy or are turning down opportunities to work and earn.

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