When Melissa Elguera got married, she moved out of her parents’ home in Moreno Valley, ready to make it out on her own.
But six years later, a vicious recession with few job prospects and mounting bills forced the 30-year-old to return home. Her parents let her stay in a spare bedroom with her husband and baby girl.
“The American dream was to get married,” said Elguera, 30. “You buy a house. You have kids and you go forward. Now, it’s no longer like that.”
Dire economic situations like Elguera’s are forcing young adults to move back in with mom and dad.
And it is happening more frequently in areas like Los Angeles, where nearly 30 percent of adults in their late 20s lived with their parents during the recession, according to a study sponsored by Brown University and the Russell Sage Foundation.
The L.A.-Long Beach-Santa Ana area ranked the fifth highest in the nation, the study said. Two other metropolitan areas, Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, Calif., as well as El Paso, Texas, also held the same ranking.
(Graphic based on data from Dr. Qian's study of 100 most-populous metro areas in the U.S. in 2008)
The study's author, Ohio State University professor Zhenchao Qian said L.A.’s high cost of living, the state’s steep unemployment rate and ethnic diversity all played a role in young people returning home. Families of Asian and Latino origin may be more culturally accepting of the trend, Qian said.
Meanwhile, places in the Midwest such as Des Moines, Iowa and Madison, Wis., which boast lower home prices and a lower unemployment rate, are some of the least likely cities to find twenty-somethings at their parents' homes.
Young people living with their parents has become part of pop culture, known as the “Boomerang Generation.” For example, dating website OkCupid asks users whether they would date someone who lives with their parents.
And Hollywood hunk Matthew McConaughey starred in “Failure to Launch,” a film in which his character’s parents hire a woman to date him in order to get him to move out of their house.
Elguera said it was an economic necessity for her to move back in with her parents.
Three years ago, her husband lost his job as a church membership coordinator, forcing the couple to move out of their luxury apartment and in with her husband’s parents. Her husband later found work at another church and they moved into their own place. However, mounting health bills from Elguera’s pregnancy pushed the couple to seek help from her parents.
The transition wasn't been easy. Elguera, her husband, and baby Symphony Cadence lived in a bedroom at the end of the hall, crammed with a crib, three dressers, a bed and a diaper changing table. The family shared a tiny closet, with baby dresses on the top, and the couple's clothes filling out the rest of the space.
Elguera said she’s had heated discussions with her mom about bathroom cleaning and how she’s raising her daughter. Even though she loves her parents very much, Elguera said she was eager to move out.
Relying on parents to pay the bills
In Woodland Hills, 23-year-old Sam Scarpaci hauled his golf clubs, a surfboard and other belongings back into his parents’ home last month.
Scarpaci said Santa Barbara City College, where he was enrolled, didn’t have the classes he wanted. He also was shelling out $600 a month to share a room. Faced with the wrong college and rent he couldn't afford, Scarpaci decided to move home where he could live for free.
He estimates he’ll save $10,000 a year in living and tuition expenses.
“It’s helping me stay debt-free, which is awesome,” Scarpaci said. "And, there's free food in the fridge."
Dad Phil Scarpaci said it’s a big change from when he was his son’s age. Students didn't carry as much debt, and that made it easier or them to break out on their own.
“You just didn’t stay home. There was no reason to stay home,” said the 59-year-old director. “Everybody wants to get out anyway and you could."
Today, many young adults rely on their parents to pay their cell phone bills and other expenses, even if they don’t live at home. Some experts say that financial reliance could delay young adults from growing up.
For example, living with one’s parents could cause people to delay marriage, said Qian of Ohio State University.
“This seems to be a longer process today for children to become adults,” Qian said.
Sam Scarpaci said after he graduates, he plans on leaving his belongings at his parents' house. He said he'll do some traveling to places like Chile, while he figures out what to do next. He might even take up professional golf. Finding a wife isn’t on his list.
“I don’t have a girlfriend and I’m not looking to be married that’s for sure,” Scarpaci said.
Others are moving on with their lives.
Elguera and her husband relocated last week to San Luis Obispo. So will Elguera’s parents, but they’ll live in separate homes.