Study: Kids From High Socioeconomic Background More Likely to Rely on Parental Help as Young Adults

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Research from North Carolina State University finds that more than 40 percent of young adults no longer live with their parents, but still receive at least some financial support from mom and dad – and this is particularly true for grown children from higher socioeconomic backgrounds. The bad news for college students is that attending a four-year educational institution makes them more likely to rely on parental financial support – but the good news is that attending college also makes them more likely to become completely independent over time.

“I wanted to know how young adults become independent of their parents,” says Anna Manzoni, author of a paper on the work and an assistant professor of sociology at NC State. “And I ended up focusing on what I call ‘partial independence,’ when people don’t live with their parents but still get financial support from them.”

Manzoni looked at data on 6,471 people between 18 and 32 who participated in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. She found that 41.4 percent of the participants who were between the ages of 25 and 32 when the study conducted its most recent interviews in 2008 still relied on financial support from parents.

“Those who attended four-year colleges and those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds were much more likely to be partially independent in their early 20s,” Manzoni says. “But while those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds tended to be stuck in that state of partial independence, people who attended college were more likely to become financially independent as they reached their late 20s and early 30s.

“This was especially true for people who paid their own way through college,” Manzoni says. “Meanwhile, people whose parents supported them financially throughout college were also more likely to move back in with their parents at some point.”

The paper, “Intergenerational Financial Transfers and Young Adults’ Transitions In and Out of the Parental Home,” is published in the journal Social Currents.

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Note to Editors: The study abstract follows.

“Intergenerational Financial Transfers and Young Adults’ Transitions In and Out of the Parental Home”

Authors: Anna Manzoni, North Carolina State University

Published: Nov. 26, Social Currents

DOI: 10.1177/2329496515616822

Abstract: Over the last few decades, youth have been delaying leaving the parental home and increasingly returning to it, often making these transitions for reasons other than marrying, such as to pursue education or employment. Concurrently, parental financial support to their young adult children has risen, partly redefining the meaning of residential independence, a major marker of the transition to adulthood. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health and Markov models, I examine transitions into and out of the parental home and their association with intergenerational financial transfers. Results show high prevalence of partial independence—that is, not living with parents but receiving financial assistance from them—with significant differences depending on college attendance and socioeconomic status (SES). Attending a four-year college increases the likelihood that youth subsequently live independently without parental financial support, although monetary transfers throughout college weaken the effect. Youth from high SES are more likely to leave the parental home, but typically with financial assistance from their parents; their higher likelihood of continued financial dependence raises concerns of prolonged dependence. Results also suggest that full or partial independence may lead youth from lower socioeconomic backgrounds into renewed dependence on their parents, later.

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