Academic journal article Demographic Research

Racial and Ethnic Differences in Leaving and Returning to the Parental Home: The Role of Life Course Transitions, Socioeconomic Resources, and Family Connectivity

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Racial and Ethnic Differences in Leaving and Returning to the Parental Home: The Role of Life Course Transitions, Socioeconomic Resources, and Family Connectivity

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Over the last half-century, social, economic, and cultural changes have made the transition to adulthood more dynamic, complex, and diversified in western countries (Cordón 1997; Mitchell 2007; Settersten and Ray 2010). In addition to extended post-secondary education and delayed marriage and childbearing, there has been a steady increase in the share of young adults living in the parental home (Furstenberg 2010; Payne 2012b; Stone, Berrington, and Falkingham 2011). In the U.S., the percentage of young adults ages 18-31 living in the parental home remained largely unchanged from 1981 (31%) to 2007 (32%), but then increased to 36% in 2012 (Fry 2013). Not only are U.S. young adults leaving home at an older age, but almost half of them return home after living independently (Goldscheider and Goldscheider 1999). This appears to be a much higher rate of home-returning than in Canada and some European countries, including Britain, Germany, and Sweden (Mitchell 2007). This prolonged dependence on parents is likely attributable to the declining job prospects for young adults, an increasing demand for higher education, and the rising cost of living (Newman 2012). In addition, family values among some racial-ethnic and immigrant groups may encourage coresidence with parents (Waters et al. 2011).

In the U.S., transitions out of the parental home are marked by considerable diversity across racial and ethnic groups. At least among young men, levels of co-residence with parents vary substantially by racial-ethnic background. In 2011, 31% of young Black men aged 25-34 lived in the parental home, compared with 21% of young Latino men and only 15% of White men. Differences between young Black women (11%), Latino women (11%), and White women (9%) are substantially smaller (Mather 2011). Prior research found that Black and Hispanic young adults leave home at an older age than their non-Hispanic White peers (Goldscheider, Hofferth, and Curtin 2014; Mulder and Clark 2000) and are more likely to return after living away from home (Da Vanzo and Goldscheider 1990; South and Lei 2015).

Yet, despite these widely acknowledged racial-ethnic differences in young adults' propensity to move out of and back into the parental home, the source of these disparities remains unclear. Recent research has attempted to explain racial-ethnic differences in parent-adult child coresidence by exploring the impact of immigration status (Glick and Van Hook 2002), social and familial roles and individual resources (Treas and Batalova 2011), and attitudes towards marriage and family (Britton 2013). However, Glick and Van Hook (2002) found that only a small share of racial/ethnic differences in parental coresidence is explained by compositional differences in nativity or recency of arrival to the U.S. Treas and Batalova (2011) eliminated the Black-White gap in parental coresidence by adjusting for young adults' social roles (e.g., spouse, parent, student, or worker) and economic resources, but were unable to explain completely the Hispanic-White difference. Britton (2013) found that higher rates of coresidence among minorities are not attributable to subcultural differences in attitudes toward family and marriage, but are partially explained by group differences in socioeconomic attainment and marital status.

One limitation of most prior studies of this issue is that they have used cross-sectional data: these studies are thus incapable of identifying the events in young adults' life course that might precipitate either home-leaving or home-returning (Treas and Batalova 2011; Britton 2013). Moreover, prior research has paid little attention to other possible explanations for racial and ethnic differences in parental coresidence, particularly characteristics of the parental household and the emotional connectivity between adult children and their origin family. This study goes beyond most prior studies 1) by using longitudinal data to measure actual residential moves rather than static patterns of parental coresidence; 2) by considering both moves out of and back into the parental home; 3) by comparing the timing of moves among non-Hispanic Whites, non-Hispanic Blacks, and Hispanics in parallel fashion; and 4) by testing a wider variety of potential explanations for the racial and ethnic gaps in the timing of leaving and returning home. …

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