By Briana Vannozzi
Your last child is off to college and just when you’ve finally gotten over the empty nest syndrome, they’re back.
“New Jersey has the sad standing of being the highest state in the country of millennials living at home with their parents,” said New Jersey Policy Perspective Vice President Jon Whiten.
New U.S. Census Bureau figures show almost half — 47 percent — of New Jerseyans aged 18 to 34 years old live with mom and dad, giving the Garden State a distinction that’s probably unwanted.
“It’s all a byproduct of the fact that our economy has not recovered from the great recession at the same pace that the nation’s has,” Whiten said.
Whiten says only other high cost states like Connecticut and New York came close to our numbers.
“It’s a combination of a stuck economy, high cost of living and low wages and add on to that a lack of affordable housing and increasing student debt and you’ve really got a perfect storm,” he said.
North Jersey is home to the most households with millennials. Hunterdon County has the highest with 61 percent. But Sussex, Passaic, Morris and Somerset weren’t far behind.
“It’s absolutely a housing issue. People aren’t choosing to stay at home just because they like the cooking they get there,” said Fair Share Housing Center Executive Director Kevin Walsh.
Walsh represents the Fair Share Housing Center. His organization has been fighting to expand affordable housing in the state for years.
“New Jersey has one of the tightest housing markets in the nation. People have no choice but to stay with mom and dad very often because there’s no place to go. Towns in New Jersey too often exclude lower income folks which include people just entering the job market almost always because they exclude starter homes and apartments,” he said.
“I think it is more common now than I think it was a while ago to live at home. Because I do know so many friends and people that are still at home that are my age or even older,” said Nicole Sartor.
Like many millennials, Sartor is still getting her career off the ground. And being a musical performer makes her economic situation less stable.
“The number one factor would be financial, saving a lot of money. Living at home I don’t have to pay rent. And my lifestyle is such that it makes more sense for me,” she said.
According to the Census information, the median household income in New Jersey rose just three-tenths of a percent between 2014 and 2015. That’s $72,000 a year. And while it makes the state one of the highest for income earning, the increase was also well below the national average rise of 5.2 percent.
“We are a consumer based economy, so the longer that they don’t feel confident enough to move out on their own and start a family, rent a home, buy a home even, they are not contributing to that side of the economy at the same level that previous generations did so it’s a vicious cycle,” Whiten said.
“Once I hit 30, I feel like that’s time. You’re not in your 20s anymore. Not that I’m not an adult right now but by 30 I think it’s time,” Sartor said.
It’s not all bad. Millennials say living at home affords them the opportunity to take riskier job offers, have a disposable income and for those living rent free — well that’s not so bad either.