In a recent New York Times article, Tammy LaGorce argues that the best way to set a college graduate up for success in their field is to give them financial help instead of letting them move back home. LaGorce quotes a study published in the Journal of Youth and Economics, which observed the occupational course a group of college graduates took, while also analyzing whether they were given direct or indirect support from their parents. Those who received more direct support (strictly financial aid) profited more and found more success in their respective fields, whereas the grads who received indirect support (moving back in with their parents) were much more likely to have a lower occupational status. LaGorce interprets this study as proof that all parents should choose to kick their children out for their own sake; however, the article does not take into account other factors that might affect your choice to move back in with your parents, like actual socioeconomic status, health (both physical and mental) and familial dynamics.
In reality, the decision of whether or not you move back home can (and should!) be a conversation between you and your parents, not just an authoritarian, unilateral decision on their part. Obviously, the choice is a difficult one, especially in the light of articles like LaGorce’s, which claim that the only way to ensure success is by going out on your own immediately. Take a look through these pros and cons to determine if you would be better off home or alone.
Pros of moving home.
• You get to save money.
Maybe, unlike the family that LaGorce envisions, yours doesn’t have a lot of money to spare after sending you to college and paying for your education. College is an immense investment, and no matter who was paying for it, their pockets are probably not as deep as before. That’s one of the reasons why moving home is a smart move — you have an opportunity to save up some money that you’re not using to pay rent, and you aren’t asking your parents to make another financial investment in you right off the bat.
• You’ll have an easier, slower transition to the real world.
Many recent graduates experience depression when moving from the collegiate social scene to a world that seems entirely untethered. Mental health can often be overlooked when making huge life decisions, since finances affect us in more immediate, visible ways. However, money is not the only thing to worry about in the wake of this huge life change, and if moving back home for a bit will help you keep your mental health in check, that’s a big pro.
• Finding a job straight out of college is difficult.
The job market for people who have just graduated from college isn’t entirely bleak, but it is extremely competitive, and you're likely to be searching for a suitable position for a while. If you don’t have a job lined up by the time you walk across the stage, shelling out money each month for rent on a new apartment doesn’t seem like a very smart investment. Moving home is definitely a better choice than going into debt.
• You get to live in a place you’re familiar with.
Knowing your way around your hometown may seem like a fact so obvious that it’s not worth considering when making your choice, but it can actually have a surprisingly large impact. If you go back home, you know where to buy cheap meals; you know the best place to get coffee; you have contacts in town and friends that you can spend time with. Moving to a new location can be isolating and frightening, so staying home while you acclimate to post-collegiate life means that you're only adjusting to one thing at a time.
• You get to spend time with family!
Having your family around to act as a safety net and support system improves your quality of life. You’re swiftly becoming an adult, but that doesn’t mean you have to always act like one; and sometimes, the soothing presence of a parent can help in ways that you never would have imagined. Plus, your parents have already traversed this difficult period and have lots of career experience, so having them around for advice as you navigate your first real job can be super helpful.
Cons of moving home.
• You’re still financially dependent.
You’ve just spent four years in college, and you’ve probably been depending on your parents for at least a little bit of financial help. Maybe you feel guilty for continuing to suck away their funds; maybe you've saved up enough money that getting your own place is an actual possibility. No matter what the reason behind the action, leaving home means being independent for (perhaps) the first time in your life — a daunting task, but an inevitable one—and staying home means remaining dependent.
• You can’t escape your hometown.
Although there is comfort in knowing your way around, returning to your hometown also has its dark side. You’ll know the cashier working in the cafe down the street, you’ll risk running into your old fling every time you go to the grocery store, and each time you step foot in the library the librarian will tell everyone within earshot about the time you spilled orange juice on a library book and came in crying with an apology note in fifth grade. If you live at home, it's hard to escape your past, and you risk never being treated as an adult by the people who have known you since way back when.
• Social dynamics will have changed.
You can’t just go home and revert to the happy days of high school. Your friendships are not the same after four years apart, and the social dynamics will be very different when you hang out now. After all, there’s no longer any fun in watering down your parents’ rum stash and getting drunk in the basement when you're finally of age to legally purchase any type of alcohol you want.
• You will end up spending too much time with family.
Of course, every family is different; but no matter how much you love your family and how much you all get along, moving back home will have you tearing at one another’s throats at one point or another. You don’t want to ruin a good relationship by putting too much strain on it, and in some cases, that’s what moving back home might do to your familial bonds.
What percentage of college graduates move back home after graduation?
According to a Pew Research Center study conducted in 2014, 19% of recent college grads surveyed had moved back in with their parents. This recent uptick in multigenerational cohabitating likely has roots in multiple social phenomena, such as delayed age of marriage and economic insecurity, to name a few. This percentage is actually lower than for non-college-educated young adults in the same age bracket, who lived at home in larger numbers.
Tips for making it work.
Negotiate a living contract.
Talk to your parents before moving back home about how this new living arrangement is going to work. It’s their home, so you need to abide by whatever rules they set, but you’re also an adult now, and if they ever expect you to move out they need to treat you like an adult who's capable of living in the real world. Don’t let Mom do your laundry for you.
Spend purposeful time together and apart.
Limit the time you spend with your family so that when you’re all together, it’s a conscious choice that everyone feels good about. The less time you spend in each other’s company, the fewer opportunities for fighting there are, and when you come together you can treat one another civilly.
Make a plan to get out of there.
Since you’re technically imposing on their space, you should strive to demonstrate to your parents that you have an extraction plan. It will give everyone involved peace of mind to know that you’re working toward a certain goal and that once you’ve saved enough money or gotten a job, you’ll get out of their hair.