It's not hard to figure out the attraction of living in your parents' basement. Free rent! Your Mom makes you sandwiches! Awesome. But why is a whole generation of young people kicking it at the 'rents? Science has the answer.

There are basically two theories. One: today's adult children are fickle, overgrown babies who need their parents to tuck them in at night and are so enamored with themselves that they refuse to get a job unless it is as special as themselves. Or, two: vast economic shifts have conspired such that it is impossible for these young people live on their own. (Hang out for even a minute with those recently graduated from college and you will see that they vastly prefer the second theory.) A big study from the MacArthur Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood just came out and... it shows both theories are kind of true!

First: The "impossible" theory. Far from suffering from some new form of mass infantalization, the study suggests it is the American Way to live with your parents into adulthood. The study confirms that, young Americans are indeed "living at home longer, are financially insecure and are making lower wages." But it also says that living at home in your younger years was the norm until recently. In the early 1900s, the grandparents of today's basement-dwellers also lived at home, existing in a state of "semi-autonomy," building up their personal resources until they could set out on their own and start a family.

Then the Boomer generation came around. Because there were so many awesome factory jobs in post-World War II America—and, probably, their newly-revolutionized sexuality was being hampered by Mom always listening through the door—everyone moved out of the house soon as they could. But the study says the Boomers were an "anomaly." Now, our post-industrial economy has returned us to a baseline of American extended adolescence, with adult children happily ensconced with their parents until they finally find a Tumblr follower to settle down with. Americans were never meant to strike out on their own!

Except there is one crucial difference between today's parental cohabitators and those of yore—and here's where the big baby theory comes in: Where the young adults of the 1900s helped support the household, statistics show that parents today spend 10 percent of their income supporting their adult children.

Conclusion: Young people living at home today are big American babies.


Pic of Justin Halpern, who turned living in his parents' house into a career via "Shit My Dad Says"