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New Study Explores Reasons Why Young Adults 'Boomerang' Home To Parents

A recently-completed study looks at some of the reasons behind "boomeranging," or the tendency for college- and post-college-aged students to move back in with their parents.

The general assumption has been that the higher the student loan debt, the more likely for a young adult to "boomerang" back to their parents' house. According to a recent study though, it's a more complicated than that.

Jason Houle, an assistant professor of sociology at Dartmouth College, recently completed a study on boomeranging with Montana State sociology professor Cody Warner.

"When we started looking at the data, we kind of found no real evidence – or no correlation – between student loan debt and boomeranging, which kind of surprised us," Houle told Vermont Edition on Wednesday.

He adds though that a closer look at the data uncovered a caveat regarding student debt.

"We dug deeper into the data and we found that actually student debt was more consequential for some people than for others, and that broke down by race," Houle explains. "So the second key finding here is that for black youth, student debt seems to really matter for returning home, and that wasn't the case for white young adults."

In terms of other findings from the study, Houle says that "one of the strongest predictors" for if an individual is more likely to boomerang has to do with if they completed college.

"People who pursued a college degree of any type, but did not leave with a college degree, these people are the ones that are most likely to end up back at their parents' doorstep," he says.

One of the least surprising elements of the study, according to Houle, was that individuals who are transitioning into more "adult roles" were less likely to boomerang.

"We find that young people who have transitioned into these roles that we traditionally look at – marriage, perhaps homeownership, full-time employment – they're much less likely to return home than those that remain single or are floundering in the labor market and are otherwise perhaps doing less well economically," he says.

Listen to the full interview from Vermont Edition above.

Ric was a producer for Vermont Edition and host of the VPR Cafe.
Jane Lindholm is the host, executive producer and creator of But Why: A Podcast For Curious Kids. In addition to her work on our international kids show, she produces special projects for Vermont Public. Until March 2021, she was host and editor of the award-winning Vermont Public program Vermont Edition.
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