Melbourne Institute’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey has been following the lives of more than 17,000 Australians each year since 2001 and researchers have seen an increase in young adults staying in the family home.
Figures show the average age for men to leave was about 24 in 2019, up from closer to 23 almost two decades ago. For women, the average age to leave in 2019 was after they reached 23, compared to closer to 22 in 2002.
Average age young adults (age 18 to 29) leave the parental home
The HILDA survey also showed an increase in the number of young adults staying in the family home.
In 2001, 47.3% of men aged 18–29 were still in the family home, and this increased to 54.3% in 2019. For women aged 18–29, 36.7% were still living in the family home in 2001. This increased to 47.6% in 2019, though the figure has been falling in later years from a high of 51.2% in 2017.
Young adults (aged 18-29) still living with their parents
When researchers dug deeper into the data they found an increase in the number of men and women staying in the family home into their late 20s.
In 2001, 22.9% of men aged 26–29 were still in the family home, and this increased to 29.1% in 2019. For women aged 26–29, 17.1% were still living in the family home in 2001. This increased to 20.9% in 2019.
Has COVID-19 kept young adults in the family home?
No HILDA figures are publicly available yet to cover the period of the COVID-19 outbreak in Australia from early 2020 onwards.
But Professor Roger Wilkins, Deputy Director of the Melbourne Institute, told Canstar the pandemic could have acted to keep many young adults at the parental home.
“COVID has certainly changed the equation over the last two years, but not completely in one direction,” he said. “On balance, I suspect adult children living with their parents has increased, but I note that in Sydney and Melbourne rents have declined considerably since March 2020.
“With reduced opportunities for travel, many young adults may also have more disposable income available for housing, but of course young adults working in hospitality and the arts have had declines in their incomes in most parts of the country.”
The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) noted in September 2020 the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on rental markets, with reduced demand leading to some reductions in rent. It also noted the majority or rental homes were headed by a person aged 35 or under, typically with a lower income.
Twelve months later and there were signs that rents were generally on the rise again, according to Domain’s Rental Report.
The ‘delayed adulthood’ effect on the family home
Other factors that could be responsible for keeping young adults in the family home for longer include a trend to delaying some aspects of adulthood, said Professor Wilkins.
“The trend towards leaving the parental home later in life reflects mutually reinforcing effects of rising housing costs, increased participation in higher education, and reduced full-time employment rates,” he told Canstar.
“And perhaps a general social trend to ‘delaying adulthood’, getting married and having children later, and more generally settling down later.”
This trend in young adults staying longer in the family home has also been noticed by researchers at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, a research arm of the Australian Government.
The institute’s Senior Research Fellow Lixia Qu also told Canstar the increase could be attributed in part to more young adults staying in tertiary education for longer. Housing affordability was also an issue, especially in capital cities.
“Housing is more expensive in capital cities rather than regional areas,” she said.
The benefits of staying longer in the family home
One advantage to young adults staying at home longer is that it could give them a better chance to save or invest for a home loan deposit or rental bond to enter the housing market at a later stage in their life, said Dr Qu.
“For young people staying with parents, they can save money,” she said.
Some parents also enjoy the time with their adult children. But she warned there was also the potential for conflict if parents felt their adult children were not contributing with the daily chores and upkeep of the family home.
“Both sides should be mindful of this, otherwise conflict can escalate,” she said. “They have to respect each other.”
Jane Mitchell, the Acting Manager of Family and Community Programs at Newcastle University's Family Action Centre, said young adults should help out at home as a way of developing their own life skills.
“Taking care of their own space, assisting with household maintenance and running the household, if they can’t contribute a lot financially they can still contribute in many other ways,” she told Canstar.
They should also be encouraged to set some goals for where they want to be, say in five years time, and what are their dreams and aspirations.
When it comes time to leave the family home, the Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel has some useful advice for young people looking to move out, such as making sure you are ready to live independently and have enough money to support yourself.
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