Coming Home Again

May 8th, 2009 by Kathy McManus

Are adult children who move back in with their parents freeloaders?

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

In Australia they’re known as “kippers”—Kids in Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings. 

In America they’re called “boomerangers”—adult offspring who return to live with their parents, sometimes bringing a spouse and children, unable to financially make it on their own. 

Everywhere they have been the stuff of sitcoms and punch lines: irresponsible losers adding to the sofa’s sag while subtracting from the kitchen cupboards. 

But the freeloader image may be inadvertently falling away, a welcome casualty of the ongoing recession, which, in some cases, is helping reshape what it means to be a responsible American family in an era of mounting crises. 

A married Utah couple who could no longer make ends meet moved into his parents’ basement. “Staying close to your family in times of need, that’s the most important thing in the economic crises,” the husband said. His wife added, “It’s sad that people feel like they can’t turn to their families for help, or they feel like there’s something bad in doing that.” 

Boomerangers are now more likely to help than loaf, splitting the costs of food and shelter in their parents’ homes and sharing domestic responsibilities. “As Americans face tougher economic conditions, we’ll likely see more of this,” said a vice president for AARP, which recently analyzed census data and recognized some new changes in families.  In the past year, more than a third of retirees have had to help their offspring pay bills. More adult children are living with their parents, continuing an upward trend since 2000. And the number of multi-generational households has increased from 5 million in 2000 to 6.2 million in 2008. 

“Kin is becoming the safety net of last resort,” wrote one reporter, “in part because overwhelmed social service agencies are reaching their giving limits.” A social services expert added, “Families, friends and social networks are becoming more important ways that people are coping.”

Tell us what you think: Is it still parents’ responsibility to launch self-sufficient adult children into the world? What would you do if your adult kids wanted to move in and be bailed out?