The Way We Work: Graduates Play Waiting Game at Home

In a difficult economy, many graduates return to their childhood homes looking for work.

Many college graduates are finding themselves in a decidedly retro phenomenon, where economic independence starts from the security of their parents' homes.

"What seems to be changing is not that kids are returning home for a while after college, but how long they are living at home before they can leave," said Lawrence Levy, executive dean of the National Center for Suburban Studies at Long Island's Hofstra University. That could have widespread implications for local communities.

Changing economic dynamics and cultural shifts are among the reasons experts cite for the re-emergence of nuclear, multi-generational family homes not unlike family units of post-WWII America.

More Kids at Home, Less Stigma

A study by the Pew Research Center of U.S. Census data determined that 39 percent of adults (ages 18-34) live with a parent or moved back home at some point during recent years. Among those who have just graduated high school or college (ages 18-24) 53 percent lived at home or moved back temporarily.

Those figures represent the highest percent of Americans living in multi-generational homes since the 1950's, the Pew study said.

In many affluent suburbs, insecurity about economic prospects often predeominate: An extensive survey by the Stony Brook University Center for Survey Research from the fall of 2011 was a snapshot of life in post-recession suburbia: nearly 70 percent of the Long Island households surveyed with family incomes between $35,000-$100,000 annually reported some difficulty in meeting their monthly mortgage or rental payments.

An Associated Press report in April that said opportunities for college graduates vary widely. The report indicated that those with degrees in the arts and humanities may have a long wait ahead of them.

Levy's take: "These are not your mother's and father's suburbs."

In the Pew study, nearly half of these so-called "boomerang" children report paying rent to their parents and almost 90 percent have helped with household expenses.

The social stigma of living at home may also be disappearing, many experts report. The Pew study said about 75 percent of returning young people reported the living arrangements were either good (24 percent) or about the same as before they left (48 percent).

Many reported having college friends in the same circumstances and, unlike previous generations, the explosion of social media keeps them in touch with college friends who are far away.

Sharply Divided Generations

Levy is a Baby Boomer, and after college, he traveled a bit and moved back home briefly, but picking a career and moving out went together naturally. He spent 30 years as a journalist, eventually becoming chief political columnist at Newsday.

"It is clear that this (new) generation now faces much bigger debt, car loans and school loans, credit card costs," Levy said. Looking at his friends and neighbors, he sees suburban newcomers who are more comfortable with a multi-generational family arrangement than the previous generations that turned Long Island's farms into bedroom communities of shopping plazas and armies of commuters to Manhattan.

He might as well be talking about Laura Conte. "I'm still at home because I enjoy it," said the 24 year old a public relations specialist. "I do not make enough money to live on my own and save the way that I want to. My monthly bills are fairly low and I think it is more beneficial to save my money at this point."

Even the secure are staying home. For the last year, financial advisor 29, is a practical, accomplished professional who understands the importance of saving for the future. Since graduating SUNY Binghamton, Trugman, who teaches others how to be responsible with money, first lived at home or with his dad and later shared a place with a brother. Now he has had his own place, an apartment in Plainview, a Long Island suburb about 30 miles east of Manhattan. But that is a recent development.

"It's financially challenging to enjoy a certain lifestyle while building a practice, and finding the time to pursue professional designations," he said.

In many ways Trugman is the norm among educated suburbanites who didn't want to leave their home communities and were willing to re-adjust to living with relatives. His approach can be strikingly pragmatic to people who think of the their 20s as a time to head out adventurously into the world and start a career.

For Conte, a 1950s-style scenario sounds just fine: "I would like to stay at home until I get married or save enough money to put a down payment on a house," the LIU Post graduate said. "Whichever happens first."

Tom Gillen September 06, 2012 at 12:24 PM
@Bob - I thought that was the same thing I said. is there an echo in here? Hellllloooooo
GCBob September 06, 2012 at 02:53 PM
Jason, you asked me where the shortages are and what future careers our educational system should be providing. Professionals that seem to always be needed are in the healthcare industry. Primary care doctors and support staff including nurses(estimates that show a shortage of 1 million nurses by 2020), technicians, technologist, office operations, coding, and billing. High-tech jobs that require knowledge of computer systems, programming, and designing in order to build, operate and maintain every device that is computer supported like cars,planes, smart phones, laptops, and new careers like cybersecurity. Engineers trained in robotics, nanotechnology, and prosthetics just name a few. Scientists and lab assistants trained in stem cell research, alternative energy resources, geology, genetics, and pharmaceuticals. New careers like Geropsychologists and other jobs related to our aging population. I am just scratching the surface of jobs that will be needed now and in the future. This can only be done through a collaborated effort and support between our growing industrial complex, Department of Labor and Statistics, and our education system in order to recognize and provide the needed workforce equipped with knowledge and innovative spirit for the 21st-century. I also believe that there will always be a need for home repairs provided by licensed plumbers, electricians, carpenters, and other related home repair industries.
Chris Wendt January 14, 2013 at 12:00 PM
@ Bob re: "High-tech jobs that require knowledge of computer systems, programming, and designing in order to build, operate and maintain every device that is computer supported.... Engineers trained in robotics...." Sixty Minutes last night (January 13, 2013) had a piece on the explosion of robotics. This phenomenon does not bode well for future employment opportunities (job creation and growth), especially in the U.S. Among the jobs that will eventually be taken over by robots is robotics engineering. I use the phrase, "taken over" loosely. Robots are not self-aware and do not presently possess the ability to do anything which humans have not programmed and instructed them to do.
Lorraine DeVita January 14, 2013 at 02:15 PM
In the 70's & 80's it was quite alright for HS grads to forego College to go into a "trade". While intitialy not as finacialy rewarding as some "white collar jobs" it put money in pockets, paid the bills and allowed many people to go on to establish their own businesses. We also had a prolific amount of entry level jobs in the white collar sector. College wasnt a pre requisite to employment. Many availed themselves of this avenue with companies offering college tuition assistance if one chose to pursue college while working.This afforded many a foot in the door, the opportunity to garner on the job expereince , money in their pocket and the chance to get a college degree at a fraction of the cost. Today expectations, attitudes have dramticaly changed, Parents wanting "better" for their children are pushing college regardless of the financial & emplyment consequences. You WILL got to college you WILL get a good job - @ 17-18-19 yrs old most of todays hs grads dont have a clue as to WHAt they want to do when they "grow up", so the majority receive a generic BA or a BS- try entering the job market expecting the world to be offered up on a platter with a plethora of emplyment opportunities with hi paying salaries.
Lorraine DeVita January 14, 2013 at 02:20 PM
There is also the stigma of a student going to communuity colleges where an 18 yr old can get their feet wet @ a fraction of the cost , try a few different things while getting an associates degree THEN decide @ age 20 what avenues they want to pursue. We also stigmatize BOCES . . Well whats so "dumb' in todays economy with a BOCES grad in auto mechanics getting $20 per hour @ age 19 vs an unemplyed college grad@ 23 busing tables for below minimum wage for pocket change waiting for the economy to bounce back with mounting college loans ? Parents ,students & educators and educational institutions have to be able to grasp ,comprehend & adapt to the financial climate & job market realisticaly and readjust their expecations to reflect the realities of todays economic environment.
Chris Wendt January 14, 2013 at 03:38 PM
...and there's people like myself, working past retirement age in order to pay our taxes. electric, and fuel bills, still doing the jobs that should be going to college graduates. Note to Pete King, Carolyn McCarthy, Charles Fuschillo, Dave McDonough, and Andrew Coumo: Come on, folks, help me retire and let some young person take over my job! PS - I am not alone in this predicament!
George Mulligan January 14, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Mr. Wendt, Didn't you accumulate a pension or retirement fund in all the years you worked? You seem like a very smart man. I would think your social security and pension should cover your retirement.
Stevo January 14, 2013 at 04:25 PM
I would think, unless you are in an entry level job, no college grad will be able to take over your position.
Chris Wendt January 14, 2013 at 05:51 PM
@ Stevo re: "...unless you are in an entry level job, no college grad will be able to take over your position." Think of it as a progression, recent grads start up the career ladder at the entry level and work their way up through on the job training and experience to advance themselves. This process requires vacancies to occur before advancement can happen, including entry, you know, at the entry level. @ George Mulligan re: "I would think your social security and pension should cover your retirement." Me too. However, we recently opened our property tax bill, and right after that we got a $700 oil delivery. Yes, I could retire and then blow my savings very quickly living here.
Stevo January 14, 2013 at 07:29 PM
Chris - I hear what you are saying. I can also relate to you, because I know I will have to work past retirement age also.
Darren Gengarelly Sr. January 14, 2013 at 07:47 PM
I believe the reason you don't see 20 somethings lighting the world on fire out here is the cost of living. Kids that went away to college see that most opportunities lie elsewhere thanks largely to skyrocketed rents and costs of housing out here. The ones that stay and join the trades avg maybe $500 take home pay. The cheapest housing your going to find is about $1000 (studio or shared house) a month . Car insurance at that age around her $300-$400 a month. Minimal eating. $ 400 month. Lipa at least $100. Heating oil? your guess. Actually being single is a huge advantage. Shall we talk about raising a family on tradesman pay? Life is what you make of it. Where ever you may be. Who wants that lifestyle? Fact is 9 out of 10 can stay here mostly because of family help. Whether living home and saving or assisting financially. It has everything to do with the influx of huge money and the amount they are willing to spend. Not poor family values , fear of failure etc...... I have three 20 somethings. One home , one rents a studio and one is a junior in a very good school studying abroad. Needless to say i don't have to wonder or guess. I live it everyday. You could make the same 15-20 hr 20 years ago. Thanks to illegal laborers living far below healthy standards and landlords willing to help that cause there has been no increase in labor rates for many years. Accountability is so easy to attach to others.
Helen January 14, 2013 at 10:27 PM
Okay, first - I have to say that this generation is spoiled. We are all guilty of it. Brings a whole new meaning to 'keeping up with the Jones'".... I have tried to instill into my children what my parents instilled in me...work hard, earn your way...etc., etc. Antiquated theories apparently. Children, especially in suburbia, IMO, have been handed just about anything they want for fear that we, as parents, have others look at us funny for NOT getting that ipod/ipad/smartphone/flatscreen/gaming system/designer clothes/(new) car.....a lot of parents have fallen into the pitfall - so why shouldn't these kids expect life to be handed to them? Free college education/live at home - free of charge/ paid insurance/gas money.....of course they will land that 70G year job - to start @ 21. GEEZ. Phew....
Helen January 14, 2013 at 10:32 PM
NOW, as for gaining job experience - starting in the teens - sure, no problem, it's just my children vs. the other 100 kids out there for 10 jobs. Good luck with that - and my kids are still looking. It's not easy for part time work - try to get your feet wet - when part time jobs are being taken by 20/30 or even 40 somethings who NEED the job to just get by. We're royally stuck up you know what creek. Hey, I face facts - my kids will be better off going to a trade school - they have ideas of what they want to be when they grow up - but that fluctuates between a few choices - can I afford to have them change their mind after three years of college? Can I expect them to absorb exorbitant school loans - so they can pay them off until they are 30 - living under my roof? I don't have the answers, I know what I want for my children - and if it is going against the tide - so be it. I also have my dollar and my dream.....
Lorraine DeVita January 15, 2013 at 02:29 AM
Helen, INTERSHIPS while either VERY low paying or no pay whatso ever is an avenue that should be explored more frequently as Jr's and Sr's in Hs as well as throughout college. IN NYC many companies will pay only for commuting but no salary for interns - If your child has an interest in something just have them inquire and offer their serivces visa vi an an unpaid internship with a letter introducing themselves and why they would like to intern at the respective company..... it looks great on a resume for both college and in the emplyment sector later on . Working in "Pathmark" for gas money is not something that will pave the way for future employment unless they want a job in "big box stores" or in a retail environment. and yes in all cases it will be "grunt work" but it is well worth it later on down the line as well it gives them a better perspective and respect on what ":working" entails.
Chris Wendt January 15, 2013 at 11:24 AM
This current unpaid internship situation is unfortunate, and I do not think it is lawful. People explain that unpaid interns will not blow the whistle or file a wage and hour claim with the Department of Labor for fear of retaliation. Understandable at one level. But what about on the level of morality of those who proffer unpaid internships to young people? Years ago, my frame of reference on this spans 3 decades, no respectable university would allow its students or MBA candidates to accept any internship for which they were not properly compensated. How do we let this kind of thing happen to us as a society? Where is our backbone, our sense of morality? As a parent, I could never acquiesce in one of my children enslaving himself or herself to an "employer" in exchange for ""experience"" as an intern. Slavery is slavery. So is indentured servitude or any other form of bondage...slavery. We have relevant sets of laws in this country and state. One of them is Work Authorization, requiring all employees to submit a Form I-9 along with proper identification attesting to their authorization to work. I have found that some employers are using unpaid internships as a way around this requirement, and that some of their interns are "illegal". The others are wage and hour laws, the Fair Labor Standards Act. Some employers don't consider unpaid interns as employees and thus think they are not covered by those laws. I think that is fallacious.
Vincent January 15, 2013 at 12:23 PM
Chris Wendt: The first paycheck of 2013 contained a nasty surprise for many workers: a tax hike that shrank their take-home earnings by 2 percent or more. Actually it is over 6% as over 4% tax was eliminated from paychecks two years ago in a temporary cut. I wonder what the kids in the entry level jobs thought when they received their paychecks either last week or this week and discovered this payroll tax deduction. I wonder how the average Joe Shmoe who really doesn't pay attention to the politics feels after the 'people' were told there was not going to be a middle class tax increase, just those making over $250K dollars? And Helen: I'm glad you still have your dollar and your dream although right now you may not have as many of those dollars.
Lorraine DeVita January 15, 2013 at 01:42 PM
Chris, Consider it "volunteerism" - volunteering to work in exchange for expereince. IN most cases This is not 9 to 5 its a few hours a day a few days a week and affords students valuable hands on expereinces in different environments. Some do pay minmum wage, some off set by "paying" for communting" with small stipends. Some college internships are credit related- There are MORe benefits then disadvantages. MOSt interships are arranged thru colleges. Some companies interview hundreds of candidates before doling out one or two postions. To "intern" at a company is a highly sought after step in getting permantly employed after college in many industries. College students today would be better equiped to face this bleak job market and have a better chance of being gainfuly employed if they were simply to forego their summer & break recreational "fun" and take advantage of the "interships" available. They are highly competitve. The Savvey students know it is a step in the right direction especialy in this employment climate where you need to seek every advantage to get a job.
TTTT January 15, 2013 at 01:46 PM
"Historically, a college education - to say nothing of a graduate degree - was the ticket to a good life. " Perhaps in big studies, but now always true in real life. Back in the mid-1970's, when I graduated with a B.A., as a young woman, I was basically always asked how fast could I type, regardless of the type of job I wanted. If you weren't already certified to be a school teacher or nurse, it was assumed you would be a secretary or sales"girl" or waitress, unless you were in a family business. Today, everyone should consider what they WANT to do, what they think they CAN do, and whether that kind of work will help them pay the bills. Certainly the plumber, electrician, landscaper, etc. can make more money than many college grads. People living longer have to work for more years to kyrocketing expenses, so there's a lot more competition for the newly minted graduate. There's a lot to consider when entering the workforce, and yes, it'll take time to find anything ... and longer, perhaps, to find the right thing to do.
Lorraine DeVita January 15, 2013 at 02:09 PM
Chris- personally i can attest to unpaid interships being invaluable - my son "interned " during college for a Marketing company his gas and meals were paid for , thats it. He not only gained a wealth of on the job expereince he also had a great time but more importatly he started to establish a "network" of contacts - he started to form his professional sphere of influence and while he is NOT employed in that industry the exepreince was invaluable - one of the students i had recommend to one of my Adv. clients for an internship got a job there after college and has since risen through the ranks of that same company. Also i dont know if you are aware but Many in the culinary field APPRENTICe for no pay in some high end restaurants under some pretty impressive and well know chefs gaining invaluable hands on expereince that cant even begin to be learned in culinary schools. I guess its all how you look at it.you might think it is slavery I look at it as an opportunity for the student or person looking to get into a very competive job market someone , who is willing to bite the bullet put in the effort and i would dare say in most cases it works out for the best.
CJ January 15, 2013 at 07:07 PM
@Darren - you're completely correct. I can tell from personal experience that finding a LEGAL apartment (not an illegally rented out basement, like what many of the current available spaces are), is very difficult for someone who is in their 20s, and "just starting out" a career. Trying to save for the future at the same time is near impossible - the renters market is tough on LI, and I know plenty of bright, ambitious, and talented young professionals who chose to move elsewhere simply because the cost of living on Long Island isn't viable or appealing when you can live almost anywhere else in the country for 1/2 the cost. I'm disappointed by the absurd over-generalizations in this thread that all "20 somethings" are spoiled and lazy - it's frankly not true, and quite insulting. The job market is tough, and the housing market is tougher - something's gotta give, or don't be surprised in a decade when these 20 somethings are now 30 somethings, and choose to buy property elsewhere. Personally, I am very concerned about the future of Long Island.
Chris Wendt January 16, 2013 at 01:18 AM
I knew it was coming when I got my first 2013 paycheck today. Taking yet another step backwards was disheartening. Not crushing, like my new property tax bill, but certainly disheartening. A good dose of that disheartened feeling comes directly from the fact that we have this so-called "TWO-PERCENT TAX CAP" in place which is pretty much a load of legislative bull crap, if you'll pardon the expression.
Helen January 16, 2013 at 01:52 AM
Ahh, yes, the first paycheck. A real slap in the face. As for my dollars - they're less in quantity and value than they used to be, but if that one darn dollar is that one lucky one, well, then, yea me! Gotta make that lemonade - why else would I get up every (damn) day.....?
Anne Van Couvering January 16, 2013 at 02:37 AM
One thing that people here do not seem to know - there is no place with greener grass. There are more jobs on Long Island than in many parts of the country, and wages here are the same in proportion to rent. I know many people who left here thinking to find that greener grass, and they're back, because this is the greenest grass around. I know, I just got back from 4 years in Portland, OR - lucky for me, I went there for school, because work is scarce and poorly paid. My husband, with 30 years experience as a cabinet maker, was making $13/hr and lucky to find it. We did the bi-coastal thing for 3.5 of those 4 years because it was so much better here (i.e. he had SOME work).
Lorraine DeVita January 16, 2013 at 03:04 AM
Anne, It depends what your expectations were what job markets you are in, but the tech centers and corp jobs today that are growing are in ATLANTA GA & DALLAS TX becoming the new areas with plenty of jobs available. Both are also tax friendly states with many corps relocating their hq's there. GM is building a new tech center in GA and Dallas is the new HQ for many corps that were once East Coast giants. Portland isnt on any corp relo relo or expansion recently that i am aware of i could be wrong but not on the top ten places that are either tax friendly or corp friendly. Nice place to visit though.. but LI having greener grass? dont quite agree with that. but thats my opinion. btw welcome back! misery always like company! truly hope being back works out for you and your family.
Lorraine DeVita January 16, 2013 at 03:20 AM
PERCEPTION Chris , its all about the PERCEPTION and expectations . administrators cant or dont want to take control of what little they have control over so the state has manufactured a way that makes it appear as a hand slap gving the appearence of forcing their toes to the fire while in actuality it has accomplished nothing except mass confusion and false expectations for the taxpayer and ironicaly HIGHER TAXES ! lmao..
Green420 January 16, 2013 at 11:03 AM
The ''tri-state area" is smack dab in the middle of what it deserves. When you willingly place yourself under liberal democratic leadership you will get exactly what you deserve. Votes have consequences even for the intellectually mushy youth of today. You keep doing what Time Magazine tells you to do and that furnished basement in mom's rental will be the pinnacle of your lifelong success.
Lorraine DeVita January 16, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Chris , just to follow up and as an FYI- you may call it slavery but smart ambitious college students are savvy enough to realize internships are the way to go- see this very appropo link - http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2013/01/16/cover-letter-wall-street-internship/?icid=maing-grid7%7Cmaing7%7Cdl12%7Csec1_lnk3%26pLid%3D257783- This kid not only impressed but will probably be gainfully employed long before the others who are sitting on the beach and partying throughout the summer. only to sit home on moms couch begging for gas money after graduation.
Chris Wendt January 16, 2013 at 05:40 PM
@ Lorraine DeVita re: the link you provided. The kid said he would work for next to nothing, not for nothing. Obviously a presitigious bank, I presume they would pay the guy a fair salary or minimum wage for his efforts. Banks are too heavily audited to risk wage & hour violations. There is not much wrong with interns schlepping and making coffee, especially if they offer to do it as a quid pro quo for getting hired.
Lorraine DeVita January 16, 2013 at 06:06 PM
chris the whole premise wasnt the pay or lack of it was college students and even HS students need to intern and NOT sit on the beach relaxing during breaks. The ones relaxing are the ones who most likely are going to be living at home and bemoaning the fact that they cant get a job awhile mom and dad agree the economy is horrid so heres 20 dollars for gas money. Ambition, & drive have a lot to do with success. nothing comes to those sitting moaning on moms couch. The example i referenced showed a college student that is goal driven , ambitious and realistic, He will most likely be more successful then his peers who are not exploring avenues nor seeking experience prior to graduation.
Chris Wendt January 16, 2013 at 06:53 PM
re: "...college students and even HS students need to intern...." Intern or study, or do research. During my sophomore and junior summers I worked in a cancer research program under Dr. Julia Lampkin-Hibbard at the Waldemar Medical Research Foundation, funded by grants from the National Science Foundation in cooperation with NYU Medical Center, and the NY Academy of Medicine. My freshman summer I played tennis competitively. My senior summer was in basic training, which started the day after graduation. I was on a plane to Denver that night.


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