Economic prosperity has long been connected to economic prosperity. If incomes are low, or housing costs are high, people will either stay at home or take on additional roommates to afford housing. If wages are high or housing costs are low, more people will demand more units. This is moderated, of course, by people cohabiting for romantic/family reasons, such as marriage. In that case, two households will reduce to one even when economic times are good.
Nevertheless, on the whole, there is reason to believe that when incomes and economic prosperity increase, people tend to demand more housing units.
Are Young People Now Too Poor to Move Out?
Last year, the New York Fed published an analysis on how many 25-year olds were living with their parents. Here are their results:
In 2003, between 20 and 30 percent of twenty-five-year-olds lived with their parents (using our measure) in twenty-five of the forty-eight states. By 2013, all forty-eight states had parental co-residence rates of more than 30 percent. Indeed, for twelve states, the parental co-residence rate for twenty-five-year-olds had risen above 50 percent. Four states—Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Vermont—saw the rate at which twenty-five-year-olds live with their parents increase by more than twenty percentage points between 2003 and 2013. Parental co-residence was highest in Mid-Atlantic and Southern states in 2003, but by 2013 it was highest in the Northeast and Midwest.
So, for the period of 2003-2013, there was indeed an increase in the number of people living at home. Here's what it looked like in 2003. Colorado is in the 20%-30% range:
But, by 2013, here's what it looked like. Colorado is in the 30%-40% range:
In both cases, Colorado is ranked among the states with the fewest 25-year olds living at home.
The NY Fed report goes on:
Parental co-residence increased steadily for both age groups from at least 2003 through 2012, followed by a leveling off or slight decline in 2013. The chart also shows one measurement of household formation—homeownership—which has been decreasing for both twenty-five- and thirty-year-olds since 2007, the end of the housing bubble and the start of the Great Recession. While thirty-year-olds were twice as likely to own a home as they were to live with their parents in 2003, we find that they were equally likely to own a home or live with their parents in 2013.
So what are the reasons for this? The report attempted to address that too:
Our results demonstrate that local economic growth is a mixed blessing when it comes to building youth independence: Improvement in youth employment conditions enables young people to move away from their parents, but rising local house prices are estimated to have forced many young people to move back home. These two effects partially offset each other.
However, the relationship we observe between rising student debt and co-residence with parents is clearer. The chart below presents a state-level scatter plot of the change in the rate of living with parents from 2008 to 2013 against the change in average student debt per graduate.
It reveals a clear positive correlation between a state’s student debt growth and the rate at which its twenty-five-year-olds live with their parents. The regression line in the chart indicates that a $10,000 increase in student debt per graduate in the state is associated with an additional 2.9 percentage point rise in the rate of living with parents. (Estimates in the staff report that account for changes in the local economy and other factors tell a similar story.)
So how does Colorado compare in terms of student debt? Fortunately for us, the Dallas Fed released a 2014 report on this, and the map looks like this:
In Colorado, the mean (average) balance was $26,215, which puts it at 16th highest nationwide.
Based on this statistic alone, then, we'd expect Colorado to have high rates of people living at home. But that's not the case. Colorado has some of the lowest rates of people living at home. As a possible explanation, we might look to the fact that that Colorado has the 12th highest median income among the states.
According to Census data, Colorado household median income was $60,940 in 2014, which put it above the national median household income of $53,657. (The highest state median income was found in Maryland at $76,165.)
Colorado may have relatively high student debt, but it's incomes may be factor in making up for that. Moreover, in this case we're looking at average student debt and median incomes. The median incomes suggest that the incomes reflect a relatively typical income level. It's why we often prefer the median over the average. But, the student debt level here is an average which means it could be skewed up by a small number of people with very large debt levels. From this we might conclude it is indeed plausible that, at least in the case of Colorado, student is not the dominating factor in the growth of living at home.
Related post: "A Better View of Poverty Rates: We Must Consider the Cost of Living."