Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Leaving the Nest: Departure from the Parental Home in the Transition to Adulthood

Saturday, November 14, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Youngmin Yi, Cornell University
The transition to adulthood is conceptualized as a stage of the life course during which young adults becoming increasingly independent from their parents. While this process brings to mind a number of different events, such as family formation, entering the labor force, or completion of one’s education, in the United States, it also often entails departure from the parental home. In the wake of the Great Recession, delays in home-leaving as well as evidence of “doubling up” or returns to the parental home as strategies for coping with economic hardship have been highlighted in the popular press as well as in research about household structure and family dynamics (e.g. Fry 2013, Mykyta 2012, Swartz et al. 2011). Cross-sectional analyses have contributed to our understanding of long-term changing trends in the proportion and number of young adults living with parents. However, independent of the context of an economic recession, there is much more that can be said about the timing and drivers of young adults’ departure from and return to the parental home, and how those components of this life event vary across socioeconomic and demographic groups.

The current study uses single and multiple decrement cohort life table methods to present overall and age-specific cumulative risks of first departure from the parental home. In addition to providing overall estimates of the risk of this life event over the transition to adulthood, this paper examines variation in the timing and drivers of these departures across socioeconomic and demographic groups, specifically focusing on differences in the salience of incarceration and post-secondary education as reasons for leaving the parental home for the first time. The analyses use the 1997 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which captures information about young adults in their late teens and through the 20s, providing the ideal context for studying this event.

Preliminary results from the single decrement life table analysis indicate that there are substantively significant differences in the timing of first departure from the parental home with respect to socioeconomic status (SES), measured by the young adults’ parents’ educational attainment. While overall cumulative risks of departure by the age of 26 are similar by SES, there are important points of divergence in the cumulative risks at the ages of 19 and 24 when young adults of different socioeconomic backgrounds tend to experience very different life events (e.g. entering the labor force or completing college education, for example). Young adults of lower SES have initially higher cumulative risks and age-specific rates of departure from the parental home compared to those with parents with higher educational attainment. However, at age 24, there is a socioeconomic crossover at which point young adults of higher SES “catch up” to their lower SES counterparts. Forthcoming analyses will explore differences by race and ethnicity and specific destinations of interest for those departing, namely incarceration and residential colleges/universities, to provide insight regarding the different contexts for socialization that young adults of different SES and race/ethnicity are exposed to during this critical life stage.