More Young Adults Are Poor, Live With Their Parents

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It’s not your imagination: It really is more crowded at mom and dad’s place. The Census Bureau made headlines yesterday with news that the nation’s official poverty rate hit 15.1%, the highest since 1993. Tough times have also translated into a rise in adult children moving back into (or never leaving) their parent’s homes. In the spring of 2011, 5.9 million young adults aged 25 to 34 lived with their parents, up from 4.7 million before the recession. And these adult kids still at mom and dad’s make very little money: Over 45% have incomes that’d put them below the poverty threshold.

The U.S. Census Bureau puts these adult children living with their parents in the category of “doubled-up households”—when at least one extra adult resides in the home who is not in school and/or is outside the typical family unit. As of last spring, doubled-up households represented 18.3% of American residences (21.8 million total), up from 17% four years ago, when there were 19.7 doubled-up households.

In addition to adult kids sticking around longer, in recent years there has also been a rise in multi-generational homes where extended families of kids, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and/or cousins live under the same roof. A 2010 survey had it that 16.1% of Americans lived in multi-generational households, compared to 12.1% of the population in 1980. (For that matter, last year also witnessed an increase (8% more) of children living with their grandparents.)

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The phenomena of the boomeranger—an adult child who had been living on his own, but was forced to move back in with his parents—spread widely soon after the recession hit. In late 2009, 13% of parents with grown children said at least one adult son or daughter had moved back in with them over the prior year. This wasn’t particularly surprising: At the time, only 46% of Americans ages 16 to 24 had jobs, the lowest level since the government started tracking such data in the post-World War II era.

For the most part, parents have been willing to help their kids out financially throughout these tough times. In a survey conducted this past spring (cited by personal finance expert Liz Weston), 6 in 10 parents said they’ve provided financial assistance—helping with insurance, transportation, and living expenses, giving them spending money, covering credit card debt, etc.—to adult children who are no longer students.

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Based on the recent census findings, these boomerangers and struggling young adults need the help. The official poverty rate for young adults living with their parents is 8.4%. But if the rate was determined based solely on these individuals’ incomes (as opposed to the overall household income), 45.3% earn incomes that’d place them below the poverty level for a single adult under the age of 65.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.