August 15, 2017

Millennial concerns constrain home ownership

If you’re 35 or younger and you own your own home in America, you’re somewhat of a rarity—a lot of your peers haven’t gotten there yet.

Only about 35 percent of young adults in the U.S. are homeowners, an all-time low.

In fact, a recent U.S. Census report found that a full third of America’s young adults still live at home with one or both parents, which is more than the amount who cohabitate with a partner or live alone.

There are many reasons America’s young adults are struggling to get out on their own. Along with facing the highest home prices in history, millennials are shouldering some serious student loans—borrowers who graduated in 2016 will pay back an average of $37,000.

Many took out those loans at the height of the financial crisis, when interests rates were soaring. Terms as high as 8 percent are a huge burden when you’re just starting out.

And though the economy is seemingly stronger, a lot of the growth in the job market is in retail, hospitality and leisure—jobs that don’t usually require a degree. And as of 2014, 51 percent of all college graduates were working jobs outside their field of study.

But while young people in America are struggling to even get on the property ladder, a recent study finds that a whopping 70 percent of Chinese millennials own their own homes. 91 percent of those who don’t own homes plan to buy in the next five years.

How do they do it? Most of the time: The Bank of Mom and Dad.

Homeownership in China usually means borrowing from parents and other family members, a tradition underpinned by the marriage market. Chinese culture places far greater value on homeownership, not only as a means to attract a spouse, but as a security for parents as they age.

Most older Chinese people move in with their children in their later years, so contributing heavily to a home for their children is a good investment.

Back in the U.S., a fair amount of American millennials—whether they live at home or away—are also doing their part to help their parents financially.

About 20 percent of young adults spend significant percentages of their income (an average of about $18,000 a year) to help their parents cover living and other expenses.