Feature Story (Families)

With housing prices continuing to rise more adult children are choosing to live at home.

Emma Sousa, 22, commutes twice a week from her parent’s house in Brentwood to UC Berkeley where she is studying English. Round trip, she spends three-four hours a day commuting.

Although she works part-time as an office manager in a construction company and makes $15 for an hour, she can’t afford to live near the campus – it is too expensive.

Sousa is not alone. Although the majority of adults who live with their parents come from Asian and Hispanic families where living at home is culturally accepted, the number of white and black Americans living with their parents has also grown.

Between 2009 and 2014, the percentage of black adults living at home rose to 25 percent from 24 percent and the for white adults the number rose to 17 percent from 15 percent.

Bay Area numbers are higher thanks to housing costs. California ranks second to New Jersey in the number of adult children living at home, according to census figures.

“I didn’t realize how expensive the Bay Area was until I moved back,” said Sousa who transferred from Mesa College in San Diego where she paid $625 a month.

One of her Berkeley friends lives in a shared house and pays $1,400 for a room with a shared bathroom. Another friend lives in a student house for $750 a month.

“That is more than I ever paid for my own room and bathroom in San Diego and I lived six blocks from the Ocean,” she said.

UC Berkeley began monitoring the number of students who live at home in 2011. Since then the percentage of students increased by 1.1 percent to 4.1 percent.

Another Berkeley student, Sarah Obasi, returned to her father’s home in Richmond this year after living on campus for two years. An undergraduate student in the School of Public Health, Obasi now lives with her dad, little sister and her 92-year-old grandfather in a large, seven-bedroom house.  She is saving the $16,000 a year she spent on housing.

Obasi graduates in 2020, and if she goes to grad school, she will probably remain at home. “I like to live with my dad,” she said laughing, “I am saving money, and there is always food.”

However, not all parents are happy with the arrangement. Sushma Magnuson lives in Albany with her husband and 24-year- old daughter, who finished graduate school earlier this year. She lived at home throughout school, and Magnuson said it is time for her to be on her own.  “We have given her time until March next year,” to find a job and move out, she said.

Magnuson left her parent’s home when she was younger than her daughter.

But, that was not unusual. In the 1980s households in which adults lived with their parents were decreasing: from 21 percent in the 1950s to 12 percent in the 1980s. That trend began to change in the 1990s when the share of multigenerational households in the United States was 14 percent. In 2016, one of the five households in America included two or more adult generations.

A parent of a grown-up child, who “thank god” lives separately, 60-year-old May Gee, who asked that her last name is withheld,  works at Bright Horizons childcare center in Berkeley. The majority of her coworkers are young people in their 20s, and most live at home with their parents.

“It makes me sad because to be a mature caregiver for children you have to be a mature adult,” she said adding that she recognizes the wages of $14-$18 an hour makes living independently difficult.  “My impression is that – they don’t seem to have a vision as far as moving out. Because it is the comfortable way to live,” she said.

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