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Polly Palumbo, Ph.D.
Polly Palumbo Ph.D.

The Bogus Boomerang Generation

Are a lot of young men and women really moving back home?

Attention parents: your recent college graduate will not be schlepping back home!

Go ahead, re-purpose the extra bedroom into a gift-wrapping station/meditation cove. Your twenty-something with a double major in anthropology and medieval history (probably) will not need it anymore.

Despite the media's insistence otherwise, 85 percent of college grads will not be returning to the nest.

Politifact rated that statistic - 85 percent of college grads "boomeranging" back home - a big fat lie. Stop reading and think about it. Is it logical that so many young adults, many I trust competent, would return home even if bribed with free Wi-Fi and a promise to help pay off college loans?

No it does not.

Yet news organizations including CNN, The New York Times, the New York Post and Time reported the utterly false figure and did so without ever citing a methodology, naming a researcher or most likely asking for any shred of evidence the statistic might be anything other than bogus.

Apparently the incredibly overblown factoid didn’t trouble a single journalist.

Not until it popped up in a recent ad from American Crossroads, the anti-Obama super PAC that took the bad stat as gospel truth seeing that our socialist President is responsible for all those rejected and dejected job-seekers sleeping in what was suppose to be your yoga studio. Mercifully Karl Rove and friends brought the falsehood to the attention of Politifact. Boomerang kids, a Crossroads ad and the media echo chamber.

Louis Jacobson tracked the first mention of the specious figure to a 2010 CNN Money report then took the seemingly unusual step of delving into its provenance and thus veracity:

If the reporters had looked deeper, they would have found some oddities about the firm that claimed to have conducted the survey, a Philadelphia-area company called Twentysomething. The company's website had an impressive list of staffers, but when we checked on them, we found several who either didn't work for the company or appeared to be fictional.

We tracked down the president of the company, David A. Morrison, in the Bahamas, where he said he "owns many homes." He said the company went out of business a few years ago and that the survey is now out of date. He answered some of our questions but then ended the call, asking us not to contact him again.

Oh, there's more. Press releases "written" by people who didn't write them. Pictures of employees straight from stock photo sites:

The image of Deane is found on Flickr as "confident happy young African American business woman smiling" and appeared on the blogs Madame Noire, Motivators And Creators Women's Group and Tickled by Life. The photograph of Bray-Wilson has appeared on numerous sites for black women and even payday loan sites.

Morrison assumed expert status back in 2008 in the New York Sun when he claimed 65 to 70 percent of recent college grads were returning to the family fold thereby guaranteeing future interviews with the likes of the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and NPR. Naturally he couldn't reveal who paid him for the survey due to a non-disclosure agreement he signed just as any reputable purveyor of knowledge would likewise do.

For those who prefer data unblemished by shady business men, here's a more accurate look at the supposed Boomerang Epidemic. In a 2010 survey Pew Research found at the most about 40 percent of young adults have at some point moved back home if only for a short period.

Overall, 39 percent of all adults ages 18 to 34 say they either live with their parents now or moved back in temporarily in recent years, but there is considerable variance by age. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, more than half (53 percent) live at home or moved in for a time during the past few years.

According to the survey 40 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds currently live with their parents, and the vast majority of them say they did not move back home because of economic conditions (in fact many of them may have never moved out in the first place). Among those ages 25 to 34, only 12 percent currently live with their parents.

So there you have it. A significantly smaller amount of young adults living at home than media reports claim with the distinct possibility a significant portion of Generation Y and perhaps X are still with mom because they never left.

Nor do the young men and women living in these so-called multi-generational arrangements seem terribly bummed about it. Seventy-eight percent say it's just fine. Most feel optimistic about the future. Someone should tell American Crossroads the twenty-something's they're courting with their "celebrity President" attack video aren't bothered by living at home or I suspect, a cool Commander in Chief.

In the event your nearly grown child does come knocking, don't despair. At least they won't be hiding in an island tax shelter. Apparently 96 percent will do chores and 35 percent hand over some rent. Only 24 percent will say moving home for economic reasons has messed up their relationship with you and hey, what would some of us psychologists do if there wasn't a little bit of stress and dysfunction out there?

About the Author
Polly Palumbo, Ph.D.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D., is a former research psychologist and founder of Momma Data, a non-profit organization that tracks and fact-checks parenting media.

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