Yuckies: Young, Unwitting, Costly Kids

"Hope you're surfing for a job"

A number of my friends and acquaintances have children, most between newborn status and around early to mid teens. They all speak of what they will do “once the kids leave the nest.” Perhaps they shouldn’t count on that happening nor on having their offspring-rearing expenses decrease.

A recent documentary on CBC called  Generation Boomerang showed how “fully half of young Canadian adults in their 20s still live at home with their parents. Some blame the economy, but others believe it’s because the young people don’t want entry-level jobs. In Italy, they’re called ‘big babies.'” The National Post’s Jonathan Chevreau wrote:

This is a far more pervasive trend than you may think: fully half (51%) of young Canadians in their 20s still live with their parents, often in the bedrooms they’ve occupied since they were children. The percentage jumps to 60% when narrowed to just those aged 20 to 24.

Social scientists say it’s a global trend not likely to fade away – at least so long as developed economies are stagnant and jobs scarce. According to Newsweek, 55% of American males aged 18 to 24 still live at home.

The phenomenon is even more pronounced in Europe. In Italy, 70% of young adults live at “casa mama.” The Italian term “Bamboccioni” means big babies. And in the United Kingdom, one in three parents are remortgaging their homes to support “Yuckies” – Young, Unwitting, Costly Kids.

Thursday’s show begins with and periodically revisits Vancouver comedian Phil Hanley, who has “mined comedic gold” about living with his parents in his 30s. His opening line is “I’m not only a comedian, I’m also a stay at home son.”

If Hanley can make the leap from living at home to show business success, he can skip entry-level jobs. As Maria LeRose notes, the irony is the topic of living at home may be what ultimately gets him out of there. In fact, he’s often on the road, but the parental home serves as his base.

Other subjects in the documentary have a similar strategy, prompting Seattle-based social psychologist Jane Adams to declare this a generation that refuses to start at the bottom and pay their dues.

“There are jobs the Boomerang generation don’t consider because they don’t fit their self-image, values and expectations,” she says in an interview. “They want to live in the same style their parents raised them in, forgetting it took those parents 25 years to get there.”

Perhaps that’s why Paul Lermitte in Richmond, B.C. has decreed sons Patrick and Jeremy must leave home by 25. The youngest, 23-year old Jeremy, sees home as a “harbour” while he studies to become a financial analyst. The documentary builds suspense as Patrick approaches 25. He wants to break into film but figures jobs are scarce so needs to stay home while he builds up his contacts. “I don’t want to be stuck in a job where I’m not happy,” he tells the camera.

Publicist Jeremy Katz says Boomers were an historical blip in leaving the nest early. “Their parents and their parents’ parents lived at home until they got married and started their careers/life’s work.” When Boomers came of age, jobs were plentiful and housing cheap. “They just lucked out,” says Katz, himself a Boomer.

Here in 2011, 30 looks to be the new 20. Call it extended adolescence. Some sociologists consider it an entirely new life stage dubbed “emerging adulthood.” One former Boomeranger, Christina Newberry, twice returned home in her 20s and has parlayed the experience into a book.

If you’re a Boomer parent, you better believe Junior’s extended stay will cost you, even delaying your own retirement. On average, it costs $200,000 to raise a child to 18 but an extended stay into their 20s can easily add-on another third. A U.S. study found parents spend 10% of their income to support their adult children. Jane Adams doesn’t think economics alone explains the phenomenon but warns Boomers can’t get on with their second adulthood if their kids haven’t got on with their first one.

I wonder if these kids are short-changing themselves by avoiding entry-level jobs and the raw material of life experience. Every job, no matter how humble, provides life lessons and may lead to unforeseen opportunities via random encounters unlikely to occur while they’re holed up in their childhood bedrooms surfing the web.

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