Are boomerang kids the “new normal” now?

I’ve blogged before about how the Great Recession and resulting high unemployment rates drove a significant number of young adults back into their childhood homes — or relying on Mom and Dad for financial support at least. It affected millions of young adults.

The economy and job prospects have been steadily improving since those dark days – even if the improvement hasn’t been as rapid as people would like to see …

But here’s an interesting finding: Those new jobs and the improving economy haven’t resulted in the kids moving back out of the house.

In fact, two studies conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2016 have determined that “living with parents” is now the single most common living arrangement for America’s 18-34 year olds.

That is correct: Instead of living with a spouse, a partner, a roommate or on his or her own, the largest single segment of millennials lives full-time with parents.  The phenomenon is most prevalent in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, where it’s no coincidence that the cost of living is much higher than the national average.

For marketers, this means that the once-coveted 18-34 year-old cohort is today made up of many people who are consuming other people’s resources (e.g., the resources of their parents) rather than making all of their own purchase decisions and spending their own money.

Furthermore, Pew Research has determined that living with parents isn’t merely about employment (or the lack thereof). Over the past eight years, adults age 18-34 have continued to move back home in greater numbers — even as more of them have been able to find jobs.

The Pew findings suggest yet another surprising trend that appears to be in the making – that this is the first American generation where a large portion of the people won’t ever purchase a home.

It’s easy to figure that trends of this kind are transitory. But Pew cautions that the trends may well be more fundamental than the implications of an economic recession.  Instead, there are broader cultural dynamics at play – as well as the long-term challenges of economic independence for this generation of people.

The implications for marketers are intriguing, too.  For some, it will mean placing more emphasis on marketing initiatives aimed at parents, who are the now ones making purchase decisions within a larger multi-generational household — often one that stretches over three generations rather than just two.

And consider these dynamics as well: How do young adults and their parents work through multi-generational purchase decisions?  What are the most effective ways to target and reach multiple generations living under one roof who are making coordinated purchase decisions?  Maybe the old ideas of targeting each audience separately no longer make as much sense as before.

One thing’s for sure – it’s risky for marketers to wait for a return to normal … because that “normal” likely isn’t coming back.  Better to come up with new tactics and new messaging to reach and influence buyers in the new multi-generational environment.

Gallup’s Payroll-to-Population Rates Pinpoint the Go-Go Metro Areas

Commuters in New York City.
Commuters in New York City.

The Gallup polling organization’s P2P measurements (payroll-to-population employment rates) are an interesting metric and add an extra dimension of understanding as to what’s happening with employment across the United States.

Gallup’s evaluation is limited to the top 50 most populous SMSAs (metropolitan statistical areas).  But because of the large number of phone interviews conducted within each metro area (ranging from ~1,300 to 18000+ depending on the population), the findings are statistically significant whether looking nationally or within a particular urban area.

The latest surveys, conducted by Gallup in 2014 among nearly 355,000 households, find that two metro areas with the highest P2P measures are Washington, DC and Salt Lake City, UT — urban centers that couldn’t be more dissimilar in other ways.

For DC, the P2P rate is 54.1.  The calculation is derived from the percentage of the adult population (age 18+) who are employed full-time for an employer for at least 30 hours per week.

For Salt Lake City, the P2P rate is just slightly lower, at 52.9.

Other top scoring metro areas include three markets in Texas (Austin, Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston).

What about metro areas at the other end of the scale?  Those would be Miami (38.2 score) and Tampa (39.3).

Three other low-scoring MSAs are located in California:  Los Angeles, Riverside and Sacramento.

What do these stats mean in a broader sense?

For one thing, there’s a direct relationship between employment stats and P2P performance:  Metro areas with the highest unemployment rates correlate to those with low P2P scores.

For instance, Miami’s unemployment rate in 2014 was 10.3%.  It was 10.2% in Riverside, CA.

That’s a big contrast with Salt Lake City, which had an unemployment rate of just 3.5%.

I find one interesting deviation from the norm:  Buffalo, NY.  There, while the unemployment rate is one of the ten lowest in the country, its labor force participation rate is also very low — bottoms among all 50 metro areas, in fact.

Shown below are the figures for all of the 50 largest U.S. metro areas based on the interviews conducted by Gallup in 2014:

Gallup full results

More details on the research findings are available here.