'Boomerang Generation' hurts the economy

Commentator Todd Buchholz says young adults who return home to live with their parents are sapping the economy of needed vitality.

Kai Ryssdal: A survey not too long ago from the Pew Research Center found most young adults 25 and older living with their parents were satisfied with the arrangement.

Commentator Todd Buchholz says that may -- or may not -- be great for families. For the economy, though, definitely not.


Todd Buchholz: Years ago on TV stations across America, the late evening news began with a question: "It's 11 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?"

I'm happy to say these days, most of the little kids are home tucked in their beds. Unfortunately, a lot of the older kids -- the 20-somethings -- are asleep on the sofa in the basement.

Call them "Boomerang Kids" or "Generation Y Bother," but young people today are 40 percent less likely to leave their home state than prior generations. In the most startling behavioral change among young people since Marlon Brando started mumbling, an increasing number don't even bother to get drivers licenses.

Sure, there are great things about families sticking together. The children can set the DVR, mom and dad can foot the cable bill.

But geographic mobility creates economic mobility.

Last month I was addressing a conference in San Antonio. A Florida engineer asked me what her stay-at-home, unemployed college grad should do. I asked: "Does he have a mortgage?"

"No."

"Spouse?"

"No."

"Kids?"

"No, Joshy graduated a few years ago."

"Then tell Joshy to grab a cheap flight to Fargo, N.D. The unemployment rate is 3.9 percent. Joshy will nab a job as soon as the captain turns off the fasten seat belt sign."

I'm not saying that our miserable job market will be cured by doling out drivers licenses, but I am worried that an aversion to risk has crept into the psyches of our young people. Perhaps it's from overprotective parents who drive their Little Leaguers to first base in the minivan. Or maybe it's a lingering cloud of hopelessness despite the "hope and change" bumper stickers. But it's not healthy.

And governments make matters worse by setting up roadblocks. Almost one in four jobs requires a permit from a state agency. And most are not brain surgery! Heck, they're not even tree surgery. Say you want to move to Alabama to become a manicurist, you'll first need 750 hours of training.

We need to encourage mobility among our young people, not stagnation. Sometime the first rung on an economic ladder is hanging just above your parents' sofa-bed.


Ryssdal: Commentator Todd Buchholz was an economic adviser to the first President Bush. He's most recently the author of "Rush: Why You Need and Love the Rat Race." Tell us what you think about anything you hear on the broadcast -- write to us.

About the author

Todd G. Buchholz is an American economist and author. He is a former senior economic adviser at the White House, a managing director of the $15 billion Tiger hedge fund, and an award-winning economics teacher.

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