Student Loan Debt isn’t Responsible for ‘Boomeranging’

MoversPersonal Finance
Posted By Terri Williams on January 26, 2017 at 8:05 am
Student Loan Debt isn’t Responsible for ‘Boomeranging’

To our readers: Today GoodCall® explores millennials and how some common ideas about them might not match up with the facts. Writer Terri Williams examines how boomeranging – the process of millennials returning home to live with their parents – isn’t due to student loan debt. Later today, writer Marisa SanFilippo points out that many millennials are supporting parents – not the other way around.


After reaching record levels, student loan debt has been identified as the culprit behind many problems millennials face. One study found that student loan debt was limiting careers, marriage, home-buying and retirement savings. But a new study, Into the Red and Back to the Nest?, finds that student loan debt is not the primary reason for young adults “boomeranging” – returning home to live with parents.

Excerpts from the study:

  • Young adults who failed to graduate from their two- or four-year college were 40% more likely to live at home.
  • Those successful in transitioning into “adult” roles, such as being married or living with someone, or being a homeowner, were less likely to move back home.
  • Blacks were more likely than whites to live at home as a result of student loan debt. However, the authors attribute this to other factors: Young blacks are more likely to have private loans with higher interest rates, more likely to consider attending for-profit schools with low graduation rates, and more likely to feel the economic impact of not landing a job that pays well.

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, research professor of psychology at Clark University and co-author of “Getting to 30: A Parent’s Guide to the Twentysomething Years,” believes that young adults move back home for a variety of reasons.

“Emerging adults (ages 18-29) may move back home because they are in a transition of some kind: just finished school (or dropped out) and have not yet found a job; just left a job (or got laid off) and have not yet found a new one; were cohabiting but the relationship went sour; had been living in another city or state and have now moved back but have not yet found a place of their own,” Arnett says.

The problem with boomeranging

Even when parents are receptive to boomeranging, it’s not a desirable situation. “Most of them get along well with their parents once they are in their twenties, and like spending time with them, but would still prefer to live on their own,” Arnett explains. In fact, in a 2012 Clark University National Poll of Emerging Adults, Arnette says that 74% of respondents would rather live independently than resort to boomeranging, and they were willing to make financial sacrifices.

However, Arnett agrees with the study’s findings that student loan debt is rarely a reason for living at home (among the general population of young adults), because he believes that college graduates typically make enough money to live independently. “Those who leave college without a degree face a greater challenge, because they may have the burden of debt without the benefit of the degree,” Arnett says. And although the wage gap premium between degree and non-degree holders is leveling off, college graduates continue to out earn those without this piece of paper.

Regarding emerging adults who may be boomeranging because they have not found a place to live, Chuck Underwood, founder/principal at The Generational Imperative Inc., believes that these individuals don’t feel financially stable enough to purchase a home, so they’re renting. “However, the large demand for rental units has triggered the typical marketplace response: Rental rates have been skyrocketing, and this phenomenon is chasing a good number of them back home.”

Underwood also points to another factor for boomeranging among emerging adults. “Millennials are now becoming parents and finding they were financially unprepared to do so; and with the additional financial burden of a child, parents and their young kids are turning to the grandparents for a rescue.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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