Young adults in New Jersey are in no rush to leave home.

Nearly half of the 18-to-34-year-olds in New Jersey live with their parents, the highest proportion in the nation, according to U.S. Census data for 2015. Nationwide, a third of young adults live in their parents' homes. In neighboring Pennsylvania, 37 percent do.

And nearly two-thirds of the 18-to-34-year-olds living with their parents in New Jersey are employed.

What gives?

Some experts put high rents at the top of the list of reasons.

"Too many of our communities in New Jersey do not have housing that is affordable for the average college student graduating," said Gwendolyn Harris, executive director of the Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs in Camden.

College attendance and college debt, along with a weak job market and delayed marriages, are among other factors cited.

The impact likely ripples through the state's economy: Fewer people living independently means fewer housing units built and sold and less demand for such things as home appliances and cable TV.

But the trend also underscores a positive generational development, one analyst says: Millennials are getting along better with their parents than previous generations did.

Millennials Living at Home

Nearly half of the 18-to-34-year-olds in New Jersey live with their parents, the highest proportion in the nation. Nationally, about a third of young adults live in their parents’ homes.
Staff Graphic

Meaghan McLaughlin, 24, is typical of the phenomenon. She graduated from Pennsylvania State University in 2015 and was hired as an audit associate at the accounting giant KPMG. She considered renting in Philadelphia, but the Haddonfield native decided to stay home.

"I said, 'You know what? I kind of enjoy living at home, saving money, and going on vacations when I can,' " McLaughlin said. She soon realized that many of her young colleagues also were living with their parents.

She said she has a great relationship with her parents. Her mother, Linda, 56, reciprocates.

"I love having my kids at home. I certainly have no problems with her being there," she said.

"If she was 30 and still at home I might say, 'Yeah, it's time to move on,' " she added, though that still would be a sad event.

Linda McLaughlin said living at home will enable her daughter to save on rent and help pay off her student debt, and when Meaghan finds her own place, she will be more "financially grounded."

Rent in New Jersey was the sixth most expensive of all states in 2015, according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. A household needs to earn $4,496 monthly - without paying more than 30 percent of income in housing - to afford a two-bedroom apartment in New Jersey, according to the report.

The report lists Hunterdon County as the most expensive in terms of rent. At 61 percent, Hunterdon also has the highest percentage of 18-to-34-year-olds living with parents.

An anomaly is Jersey City, which has among the most expensive rents but also among the fewest - 25 percent - of young adults living with parents. That may be because many of its residents work in high-income New York.

The stay-at-home trend poses a challenge to the housing and related industries, said Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew Research Center in Washington

"When you go out and set up your own household, there is a lot of spending that goes with it: appliances, cable, home-supply stores," Fry said.

A large number of those living at home are attending college, according to an Inquirer analysis of 2015 American Community Survey data released by the Census Bureau in September. The analysis relied on IPUMS-USA, a census research project at the University of Minnesota.

Of the 871,273 New Jersey 18-to-34-year-olds living with their parents in 2015, 43 percent reported they were in school, about the same as nationally. That goes up to nearly 70 percent when looking only at 18-to-22-year-olds, as compared with 60 percent nationwide (and 58 percent in Pennsylvania).

Nick Garrett, 19, of Marlton, has a short commute to Rutgers University-Camden. When he enrolled, he decided to live at home with his parents and sister - saving him $10,000 in housing costs a year.

"When it came down to it, did I want to leave school with more debt or less debt?" asked Garrett, an accounting freshman who has student loans.

Fry, who wrote a report in May on the nationwide trend of young adults living at home, said it makes economic sense for students to live with their parents if they're enrolled in a college close to home.

According to fall 2014 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 91 percent of students who enrolled that year in a postsecondary institution in New Jersey were natives of the state - the highest proportion of any state.

For Dan Woods, 20, of Haddon Township, living away from home in the Logan section of Philadelphia didn't work out. He transferred to Camden County College from La Salle University.

The sophomore computer science major said he missed South Jersey, where he lives with his parents and three siblings.

"At home I have a nice desk to do my homework, my own room, and it's a whole lot cheaper," said Woods, who paid $12,000 for housing at La Salle.

Lauren Stiller Rikleen, author of a book on millennials, You Raised Us, Now Work With Us, noted another potential factor keeping millennials at home: "You have data on millennials getting along better with their parents than previous generations did."

Young adults nationwide are delaying marriage and spending more time on education, according to Fry. This, he said, delays formation of households.

And New Jersey natives are marrying later than those in the rest of the country. The median age at first marriage in New Jersey is 29.2 for women and 30.6 for men - higher than 27.8 and 29.7, respectively, for the U.S.

Betsy Lee, 24, is among those in no hurry to marry.

Lee, of Titusville in Mercer County, lives at home while studying toward her master's degree in school counseling at the College of New Jersey. She graduated from Penn State in 2014 and worked for a year in Washington as a hotel manager, and decided that career wasn't for her.

"It was like trying to rediscover what my purpose is," Lee said.

She and her boyfriend, who also is in graduate school, feel no urgency to get married, Lee said.

"I wouldn't want to stand in his way of pursuing his life purpose . . . in the same way I wouldn't want him to do that to me," Lee said.

Stephen Ruggles, past president of the Population Association of America, said young adults are postponing marriage in part because bleak job and wage prospects are hindering their ability to afford their own households.

"You can explain most of the variation in marriage and decline in marriage by the declining economic opportunity of men at peak marrying ages," Ruggles said.

Deja Lee, 23, of Camden, recently moved back home, where she lives with her mother.

After graduating from Montclair State University in May 2015, Lee took on a three-month job in the television industry in New York. When that gig was up, she moved back home and is now a manager at an AMC movie theater in Deptford.

The position was supposed to be temporary, while she searched for a job in cinema production.

It's been six months now. She hasn't found a desirable job in New Jersey and plans to visit Atlanta and Los Angeles to weigh job opportunities there.

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Millennials living at home: A state- by-state look at the numbers. A19EndText