Boomerang Children and Student Debt

In the latest edition of my book, Population Geography: Tools and Issues, I write about boomerang children, or adult children who return home to live with their parents. Although different ideas have been suggested as to why adult children are more likely to return to live with parents than in previous decades, a new study out of the United States by Jason Houle and Cody Warner (Into the Red and Back to the Nest? Student Debt, College Completion, and Returning to the Parental Home among Young Adults, Sociology of Education, 90(1): 89-108) suggests that it is whether they complete their post-secondary education or not, rather than debt, that leads them to returning. The authors found that students who did not graduate from their degree program were much more likely to return home than those who successfully completed their degree.

The study did not, however, address differences in degrees. That is, not all degrees are the same: We know that some degree programs will lead to a greater likelihood of employment and a transition from school to the labor force, while other degree holders will be less successful. Local and national labor market conditions and employment opportunities will also impact decisions. Undoubtedly, further work is needed to untangle the relationship between type of degree and the likelihood of returning home.

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