More often than not, the phrases coined to describe the rising ranks of grown adults living with their parents are subtle backhanded insults. And sometimes the insults aren’t subtle at all. Here are a handful of phrases that have popped up in recent years to categorize the millions of adults who live with their parents—typically moving back home for financial reasons after living on their own for a few years, or perhaps a few decades.
This is probably the most common (and also probably the least offensive) phrase for describing the legions of young Americans in their mid-20s to mid-30s who have moved back in with their parents after a stint of independent living. A 2012 Pew Research Center study focused on this increasingly large group—report title: “The Boomerang Generation”—indicated that while a majority were frustrated they didn’t have enough money to live the life they wanted, most were also happy with their living arrangements bunking with mom and dad once again.
Members of this special breed of boomerang offspring are not only old enough to live independently, but also old enough to have adult children of their own. Essentially, they’re middle-aged Baby Boomers who have fallen on times so tough that they’ve been forced to move back in with their elderly parents, who are likely to be retired and perhaps not in the best financial condition themselves. The rise of “boomerangers” was understandably noticeable during the heyday of the Great Recession in 2009, and the unfortunate trend hasn’t gone away. Just this week the Los Angeles Times ran a story on the increase in adults in California ages 50 to 64 who have moved back home with mom and/or dad—a 68% rise from 2007 to 2012.
Earlier this year, Le Monde attempted to chronicle the rise of this trend in France, a task that proved difficult because “middle-aged people who live with their parents are often ashamed,” and few were willing to speak about their first-hand experiences.
It’s no coincidence that many “Boomerangers” also have another (insulting) label slapped on them: “Unemployables.” As CNN Money noted, because workers in their 50s who lost their jobs in recent years were less likely than younger people to subsequently become re-employed, a Boston College study dubbed them the “new unemployables.”
This phrase is largely credited to a New York Times op-ed that encouraged young Americans to move to hop on a Greyhound bus and move to a state with low unemployment, such as North Dakota. The column’s authors wrote that they expected few to follow that advice, because “young people are too happy at home checking Facebook,” among other reasons. “Generation Y has become Generation Why Bother,” the op-ed sums up.
A Clark University professor’s research into young adults who have no good job prospects and no clear career path—and who of course still live with their parents—refers to them as “growing-ups,” as well as the more positive “emerging adults.”
Leave it to the United Kingdom to come up with this humdinger. According to a survey published last summer, some three million parents over age 50 had grown children living at home—a category the poll called “failed fledglings.” A corresponding 16-page “Parent Motivators” booklet was published in order to help parents cope with adult kids back in the nest, and the contents reportedly included “tips about how to get rid of children who you would prefer to have moved out.”
Masahiro Yamada, a sociology professor at Tokyo Gakugei University, came up with this lovely phrase to describe Japanese women (men too, but it’s mostly women) in their 20s and 30s who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s and had decent jobs—but were considered parasitic because they never got married, hadn’t yet had children, and lived a carefree consumerist lifestyle under their parents’ roofs. Interestingly, news outlets noted a widespread effort to marry parasite singles off in Japan via dating services and old-fashioned family matchmaking in the late ’00s—about the same time that the Great Recession was wreaking havoc across the globe, sending tens of millions of adult children boomeranging back into their parents’ homes.