New graduates flock back to parents’ empty nests

In simplest terms, excluding most of the over-80 crowd, everyone in America fits into one of five existing categories. Each of these categories have distinguishing trends. The Silent Generation includes the hazy and disputed boundaries of those born in the years of 1925-1942. This generation grew up with Elvis Presley, “Casablanca” and “On the Road” by Jack Kerouac. They are identified mostly as a group of hard-working, economically-conscious optimists. These are the people that gave birth to the baby boomers. The baby boomer generation flooded the population in the years 1943-1960. The Beatles, hippies and “Star Wars” were popular for this generation. They are known for being experimental, family-oriented and distrustful of government. From the baby boomers came Generation X. Although the lines between these generations are anything but definite, Generation X includes the birth years 1961-1981. MTV, grunge music and “Pulp Fiction” were attractive to most of this generation. They are consistently labeled as having a mistrust in traditional values, as well as being cynical and underachieving. Generation Y logically follows and consists of the years 1982-1995. The things big in pop culture today are big for this generation. They are known for being technologically advanced, relatively tolerant of cultural and sexual differences, and apathetic of their future. Today’s youngest generation does not yet have any popular distinguishing characteristics, but there are some predictions. The most commonly used name for children born in this period is the New Silent Generation, which predicts that this age group will share some of the same defining characteristics as the original Silent Generation. Both Generation X and Y are seeing a still-rising trend of what has been commonly called “boomerang children.” Boomerang children, also known as kidults, are the ones that leave their childhood home, usually to attend college, and then return to live with their parents. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, nearly 25 percent of adults ages 18-34, live with their parents. This number has been consistently increasing since the 1970s. Gary Lee, chairman of the sociology department at the University, said, “The most important thing: it really is getting harder to get a start on adult life.” Lee said that a larger birth cohort, or the sheer amount of babies born to a specific generation, creates a much more competitive job market. The Baby Boomers were one of these large birth cohorts and by having kids, they created another large cohort, known as the “echo boom.” The echo boom includes members of both Generation X and Y. Eric Laugel, a 2006 graduate from the University, describes his job hunt to date: “I had interviews either right before or right after I graduated. One of the jobs I was grossly under qualified for, and the other one was a ground level position working maybe 20 hours a week. I moved to California [to pursue a career choice], but in five months I worked maybe 10 jobs and was paid for maybe three of them. I couldn’t find paying jobs, and I got turned down even when I applied to non-paying jobs.” Laugel said that the money that got him by on his California trip was from a trust fund started by his grandparents. “If not for that money, I would definitely have been living at home, trying like hell to figure out what to do.” Lee also said the larger birth cohort drives up the housing costs, and as a result, “adulthood gets delayed.” Emily Bonath, another ’06 graduate from the University, is currently employed, has recently received a promotion and plans to live with her parents for at least one more year. Considering both college tuition and housing costs, she said, “I was buried in debt, so the smart thing for me to do was to live at home and start paying it off, rather than creating more.” Bonath also said she has a very strong relationship with her family and enjoys living at home. Although this can get to be a major burden on the financial situation of the parents involved, studies suggest that the healthiest way for parents to cope is to treat their “kidult” as an adult roommate, not as an under-18 child. Rent, personal expenses, chores and a mutual respect are key to a successful boomerang experience. A new rising trend of today are what is being called “helicopter parents.” These parents hover over and micro-manage their child’s life, from the subtle weekly phone calls just to catch up to the more extreme going along on job interviews, these “chopper moms” (and dads) are becoming very attached to their children. Some large corporations are even starting to accommodate for the chopper moms. Merrill Lynch recently held a “Parents Day” for the parents of new hires to look around the office and learn more about where their child works. This was a pilot program, done only with minority candidates. In some of its locations, Enterprise Rent-A-Car sends a letter to the parents of students who have been offered a position detailing the offer and explaining exactly what the job is. A survey by Experience, Inc., a leading provider of career services to students and alumni, says that 38 percent of students admitted that their parents called into or physically attended meetings with academic advisers. Of the 400 students surveyed, 31 percent reported that their parents had called professors to complain about a grade. Lee said that there is a federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, making the discussion of a grade with anyone other than the over-18 student illegal. “This puts [faculty] in a very awkward position,” he said. “We have to tell the parents to talk to their kids, or tell them to have their kids talk to us.”