Problems of Baby Boomers


Over the last several decades, the transition to adulthood has become a more challenging feat to accomplish. Young adults of the 21st century are now considered the Boomerang Generation and are seen negatively by generations that have come before them. However, young adults today are overcoming a failed economy, increased housing and education cost, decreased wages, and have necessary expenses that previous generations did not have. These factors have resulted in an increased amount of time that young adults, ages 25 and older, are living at home with their parents, compared to the amount of time that they were living at home in 1980.

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By the time a person was in their mid-twenties in 1980, it was common to have had a full-time career, house, be married, and even have started a family. The US Census Bureau’s data shows that in the year 1975, close to half (45 percent) of all 25- to 34-year-olds lived away from parents, were ever married, lived with a child, and were in the labor force (Vespa, 2017, p. 8). The stability that young adults had in that era is hard to find in the 21st century. Today, those milestones of 25-34 year old adults are hardly achieved in the same timeframe. As of 2016, only 24% of young adults ages 25-34 year olds are achieving those milestones, compared with 45%  in 1975 (Vespa, 2017, p. 8). Since young adults are not achieving these major milestones like young adults used to, it leads to that the experiences of young people today are more diverse, the transitions to adulthood more varied than it once was (Vespa, 2017, p. 8).The picture of what a young adult has accomplished by their mid-twenties looks very different today. The majority of young adults are found roaming college campuses, working minimum wage jobs, and struggling to afford the necessities of a cell phone, the internet, health insurance, and a means of transportation required for survival in today’s highly competitive world, all the while still living under their parent’s roof. As of 2016, 22.9 million young adults are living at home with their parents, compared to the 14.7 million young adults in 1975 (Vespa, 2017, Figure 3, More Young Adults Lived With Parents Than a Spouse in 2016, p. 6).       

The Baby Boom Generation, those who would have been in their early to late twenties by 1980, would likely attribute this phenomena to Millennials, those born between 1981-1999 and are in their twenties in 2018, being lazy, unmotivated, and self-absorbed. There has to be reasons as to why this phenomenon is occurring beyond what the stereotypes may be. What is different about the economic challenges, as well as other factors, faced by young adults today as compared to the generations that have come before them, that is causing them to stay home longer?


As a sociologist it is important to analyze any given social problem and how it affects society. As previously stated, the challenges that faced young adults in the 1980’s compared to present young adults, are drastically different. Looking at why millennials are moving back in with their Baby Boomer parents from a Conflict perspective, as well as a Symbolic Interactionist perspective, will call attention to the issues that are surrounding millennials. Conflict theory states that tensions and conflicts arise when resources, status, and power are unevenly distributed between groups in society and that these conflicts become the engine for social change (Crossman, 2018, para. 1).

Comparing the two groups, Millennials and Baby Boomers, one could jump to the conclusion that the obvious answer to whom is losing in a power struggle would be the Millennials. They have had to deal with the aftermath of one of the most devastating recessions in the United States history. They are facing increased costs in housing, education, everyday necessities like food, and are now facing a new expense of technology, and at the same time are being paid less than what the Baby Boomers were paid when they were in their twenties. The increased cost of college is forcing them to take out massive amounts of student loans, putting them into debt. This debt, coupled with reduced capacity to pay because of salary differential, will impact their credit worthiness overall and influence their ability to get approved for a mortgage loan when they are financially ready to move out on their own. Because millennials are being paid less than the former generations, being able to afford any of the rising costs to live is unthinkable unless one moves in with a partner or a group of people. The number of young people living with a boyfriend or girlfriend has increased more than 12 times, making it the fastest growing living arrangement among young adults (Vespa, 2017, p.6).

Alongside the rise of living together without being married, there are more young adults today who are choosing to live alone, move in with roommates, stay in their parents’ home, or live with other family members such as siblings (Vespa, 2017, p.7). All of these factors are suppressing millennials from upward economic mobility, and creating uncertainty in their futures. At the same time Baby Boomers are also negatively impacted by this phenomenon. Their young adult children are living at home longer. The main impact that they are feeling is financial. If their children have graduated, and are working full time, they may not be making enough money to move out, and if their child is still in college they are even making less. Baby Boomers might find themselves picking up the tab more often than they want to. Not only are they providing shelter, but depending on how financially stable their young Millennial is, they could also be paying for food, helping pay their car insurance, or helping them pay for health insurance. The only expense they may not be willing to contribute to is technology. In their minds, since they grew up without it, having a phone or laptop or luxuries, not necessities.

They also may find themselves helping their kids pay off students loans, or have the burden of the entire amount. Because of the fact that they too, are negatively impacted by their kids moving home, it has brought a negative stigma to Millennials by older generations. They see Millennials as the cause. Baby Boomers think that millennials are lazy, entitled, and don’t want to work. Baby Boomers were taught if you work hard then you will be successful which is based on the Protestant Work Ethic, which in sociological theory, the value attached to hard work, thrift, and efficiency in one’s worldly…were deemed signs of an individual’s election, or eternal salvation (Protestant ethic, 2018). The symbolism of Millennials inability to own their own home, or have any assets, gives fuel to the fire. This is Symbolic Interaction. Symbolic Interactionism is a thought in sociology that explains social behavior in terms of how people interact with each other via symbols; in this view, social structures are best understood in terms of such individual interactions (Symbolic Interactionism, Chegg, 2018).

These biases linked to Millennials by Baby Boomers creates friction between the two generations. Since their children are only becoming successful later on in their lives, this brings the stigma that Millennials aren’t working hard enough, or are lazy because of the technology that is available to them, when it simply is not true. This stereotype of Millennials is so widespread that TIME magazine published a cover story after the 2008 recession called The Me Me Me GenerationMillennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents (Kendzior, 2016, para.1). TIME magazine then went on to say that  the millennials’ desperate search for stable work as a privileged character flawlook at the kids too flaky to handle choosing from a huge array of career options (Kendzior, 2016, para. 2). Research now shows that these accusations against millennials simply are not true, and that they were the group of people affected the most by the recession of 2008. Baby Boomers fail to realize the real barriers Millennials face. The Baby Boomer’s inability to truly see the causes of the barriers Millennials face creates a separation between generations, and the reality is creating a generation of people who are unable to be independent.


Since 1980 there has been plethora of research done on studying the causes of why young adults are deciding to live home with their parents for a longer period of time. Research has found that the recent Great Recession of 2008 hit the younger generation harder than any other group of people. The economic turmoil following is still suppressing millennials from upward economic mobility. They are also facing increased costs of housing, education, healthcare, and a new additional expense, technology. While these expenditures seem to be costing this generation more, they are facing the dilemma of decreased wages.


Having an established career, and trying to make a living in the midst of a failing economy is difficult in and of itself, however just starting out can be even more challenging. In 1980, there was a recession triggered by tight monetary policy in an effort to fight mounting inflation (Sablik, 2013, para.2). It spiked the United States unemployment rate from 7.4% to 10% within only one year (Sablik, 2013, para.6). In order to see what affects the poor economy of 1980 had on college students, Lisa B. Kahn performed a long term study that examine[d] workers who graduate[d] before, during and after the recession of the early 1980s ( 2009, p.303). She used data that was from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1979, which followed 12,686 youths, ages 14 to 22, that were interviewed and followed till 1994, then every other year after that (Kahn, 2009, p. 304). The most recent data for her to have utilized was from 2006 (Kahn, 2009, p. 304). However, in her study she performed a cross-section white-male sample because their labor supply decisions are least sensitive to external factors such as childbearing or discrimination, which ultimately left her with 516 individuals who graduated college between 1979 and 1989, and that would have a minimum of 17 years within the labor force (Kahn, 2009, p. 304).

A cross-sectional study is an observational study where the researcher compare[s] many different variables at the same time while looking at different population groups (What Researchers mean by). The variables Kahn chose to look at were wages, which were adjusted for inflation of the current time, to $2000 dollars (Kahn, 2009, p.305). She does not observe people who were enrolled in school, make less than $1 per hour, or more than $1000 per hour (Kahn, 2009, p. 305). She also looks at employment, occupation, which includes average income and education requirements for that occupation, and economy (Kahn, 2009, p. 305). In order to see how well the economy was, she used the national unemployment rate, as well as the state unemployment rate from years 1979-1989 (Kahn, 2009, p. 305).         Comparing the variables of employment, occupation, income, education requirements, and economy, Kahn found that if someone were to graduate in a bad economy, compared to someone who didn’t, they would be negatively affected. She found that the white males who graduated in 1980-1985, in the height of the failed economy of 1981-82, earned less than those who graduated in 1979, 1986, and 1989, 15 years after graduating (Kahn, 2009, p. 307).

She also found that those same graduates took longer to find jobs and had lower occupational attainment (Kahn, 2009, p. 307). Overall, her findings support[ed] [her] hypothesis that graduating from college in a bad economy has a long-run, negative impact on wages, a negative effect on occupational attainment and slight increases in both educational attainment and tenure for those who graduate in worse national economies (Kahn, 2009, p.312).               

It has been almost forty years since the recession of 1982, and it seems that with each recession the turmoil that is caused keeps becoming more influential. Specifically, the economic crash of 2008 is still leaving its mark on the young adults of the 21st century ten years after. Since then, Several studies [have] documented how the economic crisis hit youth the hardest, as they experienced the largest increase in unemployment rates, which persisted long after the crisis (Sironi, 2018, p. 103). When Maria Sironi saw a lack of research on how greatly the Great Recession of 2008 impacted the economic health of young adults over time, and even internationally, she performed her own study to fill the void (Sironi, 2018, p. 103). The study she performed was to not only answer that question, but also to see what the consequences of economic uncertainty and income instability as related to young adults (Sironi, 2018, p. 103).

She performed a cross-national comparative study that utilized the data from the Luxembourg Income Study, done in the years 1999, 2000, 2004, 2007, and 2010 that studies the income of young adults across five countries; US, UK, Norway, Germany, and Spain (Sironi, 2018, p. 106). It contains income, employment status, and paid hours of work of young adults, ages 22-30 (Sironi, 2018, p.106). She did take into account that since she is comparing different countries that there are trends that could affect what the results may look like. She mentioned that the different governments’ welfare regimens could have a negative or positive impact on a nation’s unemployment rate (Sironi, 2018, p.105). She mentions that a social-democratic government offers its citizens more generous funds, whereas a liberal governments’ welfare regimen, like the United States, offers its citizens less help (Sironi, 2018, p. 105). The complexity and difficulty involved in obtaining these government assistance programs affects how much help families receive when in a time of crisis (Sironi, 2018, p. 106).

When looking at the economic conditions of these young adults, Sironi, looked at how many of them worked full time, meaning 35-40 hours a week; how many were low paid, meaning earning less than two-thirds the median income; what percentage were enrolled in higher education; what percent were female; and the unemployment rate (Sironi, 2018, p. 106-108). She wanted to look at how many young adults were enrolled in higher education because since the crisis hit more young people with higher levels of education, the possibility that the crisis and the lack of jobs pushed young adults to stay in school longer (Sironi, 2018, p. 108).      

 Sironi’s results regarding the United States, she found that there was an increase of young adults enrolling in higher education from 2000-2010 (Sironi, 2018, p. 108). At the same time full-time employment decreased, showing a larger decrease in the years 2007-2010 than in 2000-2007 (Sironi, 2018, p.108). For full-time working men, there was a -10.5% decrease, and for women there was a 5-6% drop between 2007-2010 (108). The respective unemployment rate for the United States between 2000-2010 increased from 4% to 9.6% (Sironi, 2018, p.108). Since these percents are an overall average of the unemployment rate for the United States, these could be higher in certain parts of the country depending on location and job prospects. Since there was a decrease in full-time workers, the proportion of low-paid individuals increased from 2007-2010 (Sironi, 2018, p.108).

She continued on to find that the young adults who were most likely to be low-paid were those who were highly educated (Sironi, 2018, p.109). The correlation between the two led her to speculate that the probability of being low-paid over time is driven by young men and women staying in school longer, postponing the onset of financial stability (Sironi, 2018, p.111). From her finding she concluded that the group that suffered the largest increase in the probability of being low-paid over time was the group with high education and that it could be explained by the fact that young adults are reacting to the more competitive labor markets and to the financial crisis by staying in school longer and trying to protect themselves from economic uncertainty (Sironi, 2018, p.113). She did note that some things could not be explained. For example, due to different cultural norms, young adults facing a tighter economy may simply decide to live with their parents for longer, which means that they do not need to start working to provide for themselves, and this can partly explain the negative income trend observed over time (Sironi, 2018, p.114).        

Even though her findings are substantial, her study did have limitations. The Luxembourg income study did have gaps in it’s data. As said before, it does not take into consideration the welfare regimens implemented in the different countries (Sironi, 2018, p.114). Sironi also mentions that when looking at economic conditions of youth, it would be ideal to have a more comprehensive measure of financial independence: This could be based on income from work, but also on many other factors, such as the cost of living (housing, food), public or private transfers, access to credit and future streams of income, and financial obligations. It should also take into account the family structure (Sironi, 2018, p.114).  

Research on the economy of the two different generations has thus far shown us that millennials have had a harder time bouncing back from a recession than the baby boomer generation did. The Great Recession had a negative impact causing the unemployment rate to rise, and resulted in highly educated individuals to become underpaid. The recession of 1982, affected college graduates negatively as well. However, young adults of 1982 were still achieving milestones, and moving out of their parents home. Even though economic recessions inhibited personal and economic growth in each era, there are other factors that are contributing to why millennials are moving back home.


Numerous things have changed in almost forty years that have affected how young adults presently achieve life goals. How much a young adult made in 1980 is drastically different as compared to what a young adult makes in 2018. The cost of housing, food, education, and necessary expenses such as health care, and technology for Americans today has skyrocketed. Young adults of the 21st century are facing an issue of decreasing wages, while the cost of living is increasing. Median earnings for 20- to 24-year-olds declined from $22,300 in 1980 to $17,500 in 2012 (in constant 2011–12 dollars) (Snyder, 2014, p.2). These amounts are controlled for their inflation in their time periods, and reflect the dollar amount if it were to be in 201-12 dollars. These statistics are leaving young adults no choice but to return home living with their parents.       

In a research article published by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, it  examine[d] expenditure and income patterns for single, never-married young adults (persons aged 21 to 29 years) who were interviewed in 2004–05 and compare[d] the patterns with those exhibited by single young adults 20 years earlier, in years 1984-85 (Paulin, 2008, p.19). The source of data used in the research was from the Interview Survey, a component of the Consumer Expenditure Survey (CE) which is the most detailed source of expenditure information collected directly from households by the Federal Government (Paulin, 2008, p.19). The participants used in the survey lived in  in urban or rural areas and in structures such as houses, condominiums, apartments, and group quarters (for example, college dormitories) and were interviewed every three months for five consecutive quarters to report expenditures (Paulin, 2008, p.20). Along with tracking a person’s expenditures, they included what was called an outlay. Outlays  include periodic credit or installment payments for major items already acquired, such as automobiles, and essentially anything that is fully paid off is an expenditure (Paulin, 2008, p.20).

Outlays provide a better view of monetary flows for young consumers, who presumably have less in savings or investments on which to rely for purchases and who therefore may depend on loans for financing more than do older consumers (Paulin, 2008, p.20). When comparing expenditures from 1984-85 and 2004-05, Paulin found that there were more young adults furthering their education, despite the substantial increased cost of college. Adjusting for the consumer price index, which measures changes in prices for goods and services that urban U.S. consumers purchase, shows that the cost of college tuition and fees more than quadrupledrising 365.3 percent from January 1984 to December 2005 (Paulin, 2008, p. 23).

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1984-85 the average cost for all colleges, private and public, including tuition, room, and board, was $4,563, compared to $13,792 in 2004-05 (2007). For overall expenditures, Paulin found that CPI for all goods and services rose nearly 82 percent from its base in 1984–85 (105.8) to its value in 2004–05 (192.1), meaning that $13,145 spent in 1984–85 would purchase about the same amount of goods and services as would $23,867 in 2004–05 (Paulin, 2008, p. 23). So far, these findings suggest that young adults of today have more difficulty affording things compared to young adults of 1984-85, since the American dollar back then could go a lot farther than it can now. The American dollar has actually depreciated over time. Adjusting for inflation, minimum wage in 1984 was $3.35 a hour, which had a value of $5.06 if it were to have been 1996 (Annual Minimum Wage Rates). In 2015, minimum wage was $7.25 and if it were to have been 1996, it would have a value of $4.08 (Annual Minimum Wage Rates). These values show that even though Americans are getting paid more than they were in 1984, that amount of money affords less today than it did in 1984. So far, research has shown that young adults, ages ranging from 22-30, are still in school, have not possessed their full time career, and are making less money than the former generation. While Americans are affording less, everything seems to be on the rise. Established earlier within this paper, most young adults of 1980 would have already had their homes by the time they reached 25. That scenario has dwindled over the years.

According to the United States Census Bureau, in 1980 the average american home cost $76,000. If someone were to rent, which most young adults tend to do, in 1980 the average cost of rest was $481 (Historical Census of Housing Tables). In 2017, the average American home cost was $384,900 (United States Census Bureau). In 2000, which was the most recent year the census considered, rent rose to $602 (Historical Census of Housing Tables). If the census continued till 2018, there would be no doubt that the cost of homes and rent would continue to rise. Another concerning factor facing millennials is health insurance. Along with everything else, the cost of health insurance for young adults has increased, especially for those who do not fall under their parents’ insurance per The Affordable Care Act. A report from the United States Department of Health and Human Services showed a substantial difference in the amount spent per individual, as well as just in health insurance premiums. In 1980, the health expenditure amount per person was only $942, and the expenditures for health insurance premiums in billions was $132.1 (Health, United States, 2016, 2017, Table 95. Personal health care expenditures, by source of funds and type of expenditure: United States, selected years 1960–2015, p.318). In 2015, the price of the health care expenditures was up to $8,468, and for health insurance premiums it was $2,151.2 billion dollars (Health, United States, 2016, 2017, Table 95. Personal health care expenditures, by source of funds and type of expenditure: United States, selected years 1960–2015, p.318). With such an increase in health care premiums even with the Affordable Care Act, combined with a decrease in income, millennials are facing another barrier that inhibits financial independence.

One thing that was not present when Baby Boomers were in their twenties was technology. Yes, there were radios, televisions, and landline telephones. Though these types of technology were around in 1980, this type of technology was not integrated into everyday life where it was utilized for economic progression. Most members of the Baby Boomer, Generation X, and other pre-Millennial generations grew up working at a time when physical presence in the workplace on a daily basis was nonnegotiable (Tooley, 2014, p.5). However, millennials are the first generation where the technology of wifi, the internet, smartphones, or anything that can bring them countless information with just a touch of the finger, has become integrated within their leisure time, education, and even workplace. To millennials, not having this technology is unthinkable. In today’s world a person is not able to not have access to the internet or wifi. Texts, emails, walkie-talkie apps, facetime, going live on a social network, do not only require the internet, wifi, or cell phone service, but these are the new forms of how people communicate with one another. Unfortunately having the latest technology does come with a price; it’s another added expense that Millennials face that the previous generations did not. In 2008, the average Windows notebook [went] for $700, while the average Apple laptop [had] cost above $1,500 (Frucci, 2008, para.1).

It is now 2018, and the prices have only gone up. This topic of technology has not been thoroughly researched as factor contributing to millennial expenses since it has only been within the past ten years that it has been integrated into everyday tasks of Americans. RESEARCH PROPOSALIt will always be important to study different generations, and the factors that contribute to their economic stability or instability. Decisions made by a generational cohort impact the generations to come, as research has shown with the Recessions of 1982 and 2008. What makes the millennial generation stand apart from generations that have come before them is the introduction of technology and its impact on society. They have dealt with drastic increases in cost of housing, education, and healthcare, all while having an inverse relationship with the value of the american dollar. These variables have served to force young millennial adults back home with their parents. This is unprecedented in American history.  Although previous researchers have done a similar study to determine the economic health of millennials, not enough time has passed to see what impact these variables have had on this generation in correlation to millennials living with their parents. So far research has been done on millennials to see how the economic collapse has affected them by unemployment rate, income, education requirements for their occupation, the percent of young adults in higher education, and those who are working full-time over a course of several years. However, further study needs to be done.       

The proposed research will be similar to that of the Consumer Expenditure Survey performed by the Federal Government, which is the most detailed source of expenditure information collected directly from households by the Federal Government (Paulin, 2008, p.19). The Federal Government went to citizen’s households every three months over period of 5 quarters, to collect expenditure data (Paulin, 2008, p. 20). As of the year 2016, the expenditures reported did include the variables this future study will consider; income, age, expenditures for healthcare, and education (Consumer Expenditures in 2016, 2018).

However the variables added to this future study are level of education, level of education required by occupation, health care, specifically health insurance premiums, student loan debt if any, if they still live with their parents or not, whether or not one owns a home, if one is married, and expenditures for internet/wifi, cell service, and the cost of their technological devices. Although millennials will be asked a series of questions, the current unemployment rate for each year will be documented for this research to show the economic health for a given year. This study will be done over a course of 20 years only on individuals born between the years 1981-1999, since the youngest of the millennials are only 19 as of 2018; their adult lives have barely even started. Instead of physically going to an individual’s household, a survey will be available alongside the American Community Survey (ACS) done by the United States Census Bureau online at (Our Surveys & Programs, 2018).

It will be a completely separate survey related to the ACS, and only available to those born between 1981-99. Like the ACS, anyone born between these specific years will be mailed materials to participate. After receiving the information, millennials will have a 1-year time frame to activate their participation within this study. If someone has not activated their participation, they will not be included in the study. Even though for research purposes, it is effective to include every single millennial within the United States, in order to be able to track the same group of millennials over a long period of time, it is important that this remains constant. The materials will be mailed to the same group of millennials every single year over a 20 year period.

 Once they go onto the United States Census Bureau’s website, they will enter a number that will open up the survey. The survey questions that the millennials will be asked are available in the appendix. In order to bring awareness to this survey, since the questionnaire will be newly developed and unknown to the millennial population, ads will be run on several social media outlets like Facebook or Instagram, as well as on radio stations, news channels and websites, and any technological platform since this is the main way they receive information. Reminders to complete the survey each year will reach millennials by the same methods.The information gathered on this questionnaire are quantitative as well as qualitative. Making these questions specific to only the millennial generation, not the whole population, will show how prosperous, or not, the millennial generation became in their older adulthood. However this study w

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