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For first time since 1880s, more young Americans live with parents than partner (citylab.com)
327 points by jseliger on May 24, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 430 comments

So much of the most comfortable housing stock in America is single-family "McMansion" type homes. The type of suburban detached house that likely the majority of middle-class American millennials grew up in.

For a young adult in the current economic climate, the only way you're living in one of these cushy homes is if you're living with your parents.

You can't rent one very easily, since they can't be divided up into multiple units or rented at all due to zoning and HOAs. Not to mention it's not typical to be a renter in these neighborhoods to begin with, so even finding a rental is nearly impossible in some areas.

Then of course, after the housing bubble crashed and the subsidies went away, a mortgage for one of these became a big challenge to achieve, and who has the savings sitting around for upkeep and emergency maintenance?

Boomer parents, and a handful of lucky gen-xers are pretty much the only people who could comfortably acquire and hold onto these houses, so it only makes sense that sticking to them like glue is the best strategy if you wanted one.

And there's also the fact that it's just not cool to live in the 'burbs, where you grew up, in the first place. The mental justification has to be "well I'm saving money at least". Saving money, means crashing with the parents. After all, it's "just temporary".

Those are at least my very subjective observations that might be overlooked in that study...

> For a young adult in the current economic climate, the only way you're living in one of these cushy homes is if you're living with your parents.

This is a very coastal/urban-centric view, IME. The large majority of my social circle growing up in suburban Dallas (a) still lives in suburban Dallas and (b) found a detached home before age 30 (if not 25). I moved away from the suburbs, and to a big coastal city, and so did almost "everyone I know" out here (with a lot of selection bias), but judging from that and housing prices in those crazy markets doesn't work for extrapolating to the country as a whole.

Of the ones still living at home, I don't know anyone thinking "it would be just as cool to have my own place, so might as well save money." The causality is reversed: "I'm broke, so might as well save as much money as possible, and my parents' place is big."

"Not cool" starts being a lot less relevant pretty quickly after getting out of college for most people, IME. Suburban houses are bigger than apartments. They're less noisy. They're more pet friendly. You have a garage for storage/workshopping/whatever. You have more space for starting a family. All those reasons still apply as much as they ever did, the big change from ten years ago to today is economic, not around coolness.

Keeping in mind that a large portion of these people live in areas outside of Dallas, with the average home price only several hundred grand above $150k[1].

In the greater Seattle area you'd be stressed to find a back alley condo for that cheap. My rent in the outskirts of Redmond for a 3 bedroom apartment is more than my mother's mortgage for her 5 bedroom house in Bellevue, which, despite being a 70 year old split-level home with low ceilings and a hill for a lot in a forgotten neighborhood without so much as one sidewalk, was appraised two years ago for over $750,000.

I can afford to live on my own, but hell if I can afford a reasonable down payment on a house within 25 miles of where I work.

1. http://www.zillow.com/dallas-tx/home-values/

Well, right, which is why the parent said it was a "very coastal/urban-centric view."

What he's describing about Dallas is true for the nearly 200 million Americans who live in the Midwest and the South. Cheap housing is the norm in the United States. I'm not bothered by people on the coasts complaining about housing costs, but you look foolish when you make generalizations about your generation that don't apply to the majority of the country.

For that matter, get an hour west of Boston and prices, while they may be higher than the national norm, aren't anywhere close to the Bay area stratosphere. So much of the discussion about housing prices here is about a very narrowly-defined set of urban areas--mostly on the coasts--plus the SV suburbs/exurbs.

It's even unclear how real the urbanization trend is as opposed to a preference for a small set of dense locations by college-educated people in a specific age range.

I have seen articles all over the place and comments all over this forum that suggest we all want to move into apartments in the city. I think a lot of it is propaganda by the real-estate industry as they are making ridiculous amounts of money by selling apartments. Governments also benefit as they can save money providing infrastructure.

I don't know about propaganda but, for whatever combination of cause and effect, urban living in a mostly narrow set of locales is more preferred than in the past by a demographic that is well-represented here. However, the pricing complaints are about San Francisco, not Detroit.

39% of the US population lives in a coastal state, that's not insignificant either. Most of those people have a problem with affordability, you can't just shrug the problem away.

There is more demand for housing in the coastal states. So the prices are higher. People should react to expensive, high-demand housing in the same way that they react to every other type of high-demand, expensive luxury good.

Which is to say:

If you can't afford to live in a coastal state, then what you need more than anything else is a U-Haul.

Those of us born in coastal states might have an issue with that. Affluence and gentrification destroy the character of interesting communities. Careless indifference deserves no place here.

It's not careless or indifferent to acknowledge that the demand exists. It is a fact of the world. A fact that, yes, I understand, you do not like. But I haven't seen a single proposal that does anything to realistically address it.

The demand is there and it's not going away. Whatever you're hoping for, it's too late.

Bringing a massive amount of supply to market would solve it, but because of nimby and other reasons it will never happen.

Never say never. They just passed a law in California which makes it much harder for NIMBYs to prevent development. State-level laws can do a lot to curb NIMBYism, as the state government is concerned with having a healthy economy and doesn't care much about local efforts to fight change and development.

absolutely, just commented on something along these lines a few comments up. https://youtu.be/5GoAGuTIbVY?t=146 and another good commentary on a comparison of what percentage of income was spent on housing early in the 20th century vs later https://youtu.be/bbPYedkDU8Y?t=152

Right. High prices or lots of new housing. Pick one.

>I haven't seen a single proposal that does anything to realistically address it.

The solution is trivially simple: build a lot of public housing.

If you have a hard time imagining what any part of that plan might look like, take a look at Singapore: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_housing_in_Singapore

Or the South Bronx. [1] But, sure, build a bunch of concrete high rises for tech workers on Treasure Island.

[1] https://www.guernicamag.com/features/the-rise-and-fall-of-pu...

They implemented racial quotas to prevent ghettoization.

>Sure, build a bunch of concrete high rises for tech worker

I guess SF's bus drivers, restaurant servers, etc. don't deserve somewhere affordable to live because it might spoil the "aesthetic"?

I was just listening to some Thomas Sowell on Uncommon Knowledge earlier who commented on the artificially inflated prices for these select areas: https://youtu.be/5GoAGuTIbVY?t=146

Is it cheap relative to incomes in that area ? Sure, lots of cheap houses in areas with low incomes. So?


You're getting 1.5x the income (usually with longer hours) and paying 5x for the house.

You're also paying more for other random stuff like groceries, eating out, gasoline, electricity, etc.

You're also paying lots more for taxes. Some states have no income tax. Some states have no sales tax. Some have neither!

Well, maybe 1.5 the salary, but I bet total comp at Google in SF is way more than 1.5x best Ohio employers. But there is also California weather and NY culture that account for part of the cost of living premium. Don't think that has any value ? Great for you, you can live in Decatur. Ilinois.

Of course, but Google is an outlier in just about every sense. Most people in San Francisco don't earn the equivalent of Google's total comp.

Also, what's this nonsense about Decatur, Illinois? St. Louis and Cincinnati and Nashville and Pittsburgh and so on all have a bunch of pre-WWII, walkable, interesting neighborhoods, with little restaurants and bars and people putting on poetry readings and bands playing in basement clubs and jazz quartets playing at wine and cheese parties and concert halls that host national acts and major sports franchises and yuppies and hipsters and Python Meetups and comedy clubs and big pretty parks and coffee shops and whatever else you can think of.

No, they are emphatically not like San Francisco or NYC. But don't be silly. Millions of people live in those places. Did you really think they're all just skipping stones and waiting to die?

I'm quite glad I grew up here, because I think I'd be just the type of asshole who'd make jokes about Decatur, Illinois had I not. And you know what? I'd have been wrong.

Sure, they do have all those neighborhoods. The price differential reflects what people are willing to pay for one vs the other. The point about Decatur, Illinois is simply that Decatur Illinois lacks a lot of what SF has, which is why it's cheaper. It's a factual statement, not a value judgement

You'll get no argument from me here. But I think an erroneous value judgement is what's driving that demand. San Francisco is an incredible place. And a Ferrari is an incredible car. But lots of normal people would be better off realizing they can't afford the Ferrari and buying a Camry. It's not as bad as they think.

And to really strain this metaphor, people who have all their wealth tied up in a Ferrari would be a lot better off if they sold it and used the gains to live a comfortable life.

On good trips there, I can certainly understand the attractions of the Bay area (though I'm probably less sold on the city itself). However IMO way too many people, especially in tech circles, have convinced themselves that life isn't worth living if they can't live and work there whatever the other lifestyle tradeoffs. (Which leads to the corollary that someone needs to do something to make it possible for them to do so.)

And they do realize it. I mean most people do not live in the Bay Area and don't plan to move there

? Google employs ~30k people here. The rest 7.5 million should pack up and move to Decatur?

I actually don't see what can be done about it. But it's a bit strange to project Google numbers to the entire generation.

Lots of those 7mln live in homes that they bought many years ago, before the boom. If they sold them and moved to Decatur, they would be very rich.

The discount on housing is far bigger than the discount on salaries

How much higher do you think the incomes for most jobs are in big coastal areas? It tends to be "very little."

Hie much do you think it costs to live in far parts of Brooklyn? Relatively little. Yet you are 1 hr away from the heart of NYC

As my friends who recently moved down here (Charlotte) from Brooklyn who worked in NYC tell me: still way too much, especially to have to deal with that traffic every day.

Rent in Brooklyn got them 12 acres 40 minutes away from Uptown Charlotte, and a house to boot.

I've lived in a bunch of US places, including rural Colorado and the Atlanta, Boston and DC metro areas, and I will say that Charlotte is a special case. People here complain about housing costs and traffic, and I just smile quietly.

But in the flyover states where housing is admittedly cheap compared to the coasts, so too are the wages.

"Cheap" housing only goes so far when your employment is 30 hours per week at the local Walmart for $9/hour. You're trying to pretend this is some "coastal" phenomenon, but you can't get there from here - you can't get the number of young people who have left the nest down from 60+% to just barely over 30% without it involving the entire country.

Young people in middle America can't afford to move out either.

For instance, in Ohio (as "flyover" as it gets :-)) the median household income is $45,749, and the median house sales price is $135,500, or about 3x median income.

In California the median household income is $67,458, and the median house sales price is $405,000, or about 6x median income.

So no, it is not actually true that the lower housing prices in flyover states are offset by lower incomes. Housing in California is proportionally twice as expensive as it is in Ohio.

Less than half of americans make more than $30k / year these days.


household income != individual salary in many, if not most of the cases.

Right. Households often have multiple incomes. That doesn't help the OP's point, though, since people in Ohio are more likely to live in a multi-income household than people in California.

If you look at per capita income instead of household, Ohio gives $135,500/$26,937 ~= 5, and California gives $405,000/$30,441 = 13 By that standard, California is 2.6 times more expensive instead of only 2.

I agree that it's a country-wide phenomenon. But everything else in your post is almost comically out of touch, which is to say that there are obviously other factors.

Not sure why you say that. GP post perfectly describes my home town in BFE Midwest.

Because it's ignorant of basic facts. The median household income in the St. Louis metro area is $55k. It's $79k in the San Francisco metro, which is obviously quite a bit higher.

But you'd need to earn 159k per year in San Francisco to match the spending power of that $55k in St. Louis. And even that wouldn't be nearly enough to reach parity in home purchasing. Housing is 790% more expensive in San Francisco!

I get that it's fun to joke about flyover country, but the numbers are what they are. People simply are not struggling to move out of the house in St. Louis in the same way that they are in the Bay Area, for example.

Which is to say, once again, that there must be other factors at play.


Part of my point was to provide what feels like a more typical example for this audience. The parent made an anecdotal reference to imply he is an average HN user, to which I made a counterpoint with my own anecdote asserting I'm closer to an average user in terms of housing cost.

They're subjective but it's important to realize both scenarios and everything in between exist, and to acknowledge when you're only considering the extremities of that range.

That was my whole point. I may be a "typical" United States HN user paying thousands a month in rent, but "typical for HN" is a very small group, and "typical for millions and millions of other Americans" is something very different.

Fly-over country has many nice large homes for $200K with 1/4 acre or larger yards. And there are tech jobs, though obviously not as concentrated as the coasts. And the 15-30 minute commute is very typical. It all depends on priorities.

Priority number 1 is not living in a place referred to as "fly-over country".

Your choice. But if you choose it, don't complain about the consequences.

The perception today is that, sure, it's hard to make it on the coast, but there are no jobs and there's no culture in the Midwest, so that's out of the question.

What this is, more than anything else, is ignorant. I think I understand how it happened. The inner cores of the Midwestern cities that give large metros their names really have been gutted. They were literally ripped through by highways, intentionally segregated, their manufacturing base decimated.

They're crumbling.

And boy oh boy does this story have legs. It's sort of fun to flip through the destruction porn. Pictures of brick piles where houses once stood titillate.

So, it must sound as though entire regions are falling apart. But it's just not so.

If you were to do a quick search for information about St. Louis, MO, you'd learn that the city has a paltry median income of about $30k, a dwindling population of about 300k, and a pathetic land area of only 66 miles squared.

But the City of St. Louis refers to a very small part of a much larger region, an area myopically bound by voters who in 1876 couldn't imagine much happening in the farmlands beyond those lines.

The region today -- much of it on those old farmlands -- has 2.5 million people and a metro-wide median household income of around $55k.

This is the true picture of the region, though most descriptions of it are drawn from only its worst parts.

The fact is that, for many people, the opportunity in places like California lags far behind the increased cost of living. Lots and lots of regular folks would be far better off relocating to places they've long-ago dismissed without a serious look.

Yes, we have winters. And no ocean. But, yes, there's actually culture (of the kind generated everywhere that two and a half million humans live). And good housing. And, most important: you can actually afford it.

If someone is looking the broad area between the coasts, they see:

1. Crumbling ghettos (as you describe) 2. Crumbling non-ghetto rust-belt that's still not pretty 3. Rural areas beset by meth and herion. 4. Vast-scale suburbs with indeed little to no culture and fairly thin on jobs. 5. Areas like the coasts but costing close to the price of the coast -

But I'm sure there's good stuff between that.

Also, the City Of St. Louis is certainly the limit of the broad St. Louis ghetto, as the Ferguson events clearly shows. The metropolitan area is basically the 2nd or third most dangerous city in the US (behind Detroit and sometimes New Orleans).

The metropolitan area is basically the 2nd or third most dangerous city in the US (behind Detroit and sometimes New Orleans).

This is not only incorrect, it's perhaps the most notorious example of the problems caused by comparing cities at a level smaller than the MSA. The St. Louis MSA is, in fact, about middle of the pack on crime. See here:


And here:


The division between St. Louis City and St. Louis County creates a lot of issues for this region, but the fact that you could make your comment with such confidence demonstrates that the area's primary challenge is image marketing.

The problems actually go even deeper than this. It's pretty difficult to make reasonable comparisons using crime data, even when looking across entire regions.

To illustrate this, imagine one region where the baseline crime rate is not extreme, but above average all across the region. Now, think of another place where most of the region is pretty safe, but one pocket of the area has an extremely high rate.

These two regions might have identical crime rates. But which one would you rather live in?

This is why the FBI recommends against using its own numbers to make comparisons like the grandparent's:

"Each year when Crime in the United States is published, many entities—news media, tourism agencies, and other groups with an interest in crime in our Nation—use reported figures to compile rankings of cities and counties. These rankings, however, are merely a quick choice made by the data user; they provide no insight into the many variables that mold the crime in a particular town, city, county, state, region, or other jurisdiction. Consequently, these rankings lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting cities and counties, along with their residents."

Source: https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/...

Shh.. Don't let them know I make the same tech salary in flyover country as in SF, but have good schools, and a 3600 ft^2 house for 1/5 the price.

Boy, no kidding! About 12 years ago I moved from the west coast to the midwest to a place I never thought I'd live. I can't believe the quality of life and work-life balance out here. My friends wondered if I'd have access to the Internet :) It's really perception more than anything else.

>>but have good schools

Is that why the vast majority of "school decides to teach Creationism in science classes" type stories emerge from flyover country?


Sort by date, then check the states.

Ohio. Mississippi. Kansas. Idaho.

No sir, you do not have good schools compared to the rest of the country.

Texas, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan account for 9 of the 25 best school districts in America, according to at least one ranking [1]. There are good and bad schools everywhere, and it's up to families to suss them out; living in the middle of the country does not necessarily mean living in an anti-intellectual backwater.

1. http://www.businessinsider.com/best-school-districts-in-amer...

You can't possibly believe your own words. Am I to believe that you think every school in the Midwest teaches creationism? The ignorance and myopia in this thread is staggering.

Sorry, never heard of creationism being taught in schools around here. Although we do have a replica of Lucy in the towns science museum, and I do have a autographed copy of Dawkin's latest book when he came to talk last fall.

> "Not cool" starts being a lot less relevant pretty quickly after getting out of college for most people, IME. Suburban houses are bigger than apartments. They're less noisy. They're more pet friendly. You have a garage for storage/workshopping/whatever.

Amen! You get tired of living in basically a post-college dorm scene really quick, all the meanwhile paying 1000-2000 for the "luxury" when you can turn around and put that same money into 4x the space, and be actually building equity in the process.

The problem with the DFW Metroplex is that walkability is kinda garbage.

Also, the burbs (Grapevine, Colleyville, Arlington, Euless, Irving, etc.) are soulsucking tracts of aparments and housing subdivisions. Walking around is hard, biking difficult (getting murdered on large streets and highways), and the only non-chain stuff tends to be overly-face folksy town centers that people are moving towards (see Southlake, but even then it's a lot of big chains because of how much it costs to be there).

And that's before you even go into the shittiness of commuting around Dallas.

Home prices in the Dallas burbs have doubled in the last 15 years. Wages haven't. That alone locks many people out of the market at current rates.

It varies. If you go back 30-40 years into the housing stock, prices are flat. Only the big McMansions have the higher price. When last I checked on the last house sold in the area ( in 2004 ) it had appreciated very little.

It's more than uncool. It means giving up a huge portion of your life to commute to work, to your kid's school, and to the grocery store. It's definitely not coolness that keeps me living in a neighborhood where I can walk to the grocery store and to work. It massively increases the hours of my life.

It's a lifestyle choice. Personally, I like restoring old cars, remodeling my home, building robots. I couldn't do any of these things without being already wealthy if I lived in a big city, within walking distance to the grocery store and work.

I gladly commute so I can come home to something more than an apartment or condo, because that is all that is available or affordable.

> restoring old cars, remodeling my home, building robots.

May I ask what city/neighborhood you're in? I'm looking to escape from San Francisco to do that exact list of things.

That does sound like a nice life.

Priorities differ. Furthermore, not every job is in SOMA--or even in the Bay Area. Many tech jobs are in exurban areas an hour or more from the nearest metropolitan area. You can certainly choose not to work at one of those companies, but it limits one's options.

I don't live anywhere near SOMA. I live in Canada in one of the ten or so "tech cities" where one can reasonably get a job as a programmer.

Which is fine. But, at least in the US, many of the even "urban area" tech jobs are not within a city's public transit system etc. Personally, I work for a tech company which is about an hour outside of the local major city and that's pretty typical of many of the major tech jobs in the area.

There are ten tech cities in Canada? I thought there were like ten cities in total. :)

Some of them are more like tech villages.

I am considering moving to Canada from Silicon Valley, any suggestions?

Victoria is wonderful if you can afford to pay a shocking amount of money for a condo/house or tolerate living in student-grade housing well into your thirties. Otherwise, Kelowna is a beautiful town with more reasonable cost of living, a good urban core, terrific weather, and easy access to some top-notch nature.

Nice, thanks for the info. I am also considering good school and educated community areas in Canada, I saw MoneySense report and it seems Ottawa is a good place (ah weather I know), it seems Kelowna (Saw it mentioned before also) suits the bill here.

What are tech jobs in Kelowna? I can't imagine there are many tech jobs there at all. Or at least any tech jobs there that pay more than 30% of a similar job in major US cities, let alone SV.

That long commute only happens when you live outside of the expensive coastal city, but insist on working there.

I can probably drive to all those places (work, school, grocery) faster than you can walk to them. Had I been willing to live on a street with cars passing by, I could have been within a few hundred feet of work+school or the grocery store. As it is, they are all within 3 miles without really any traffic. Getting to work is 3 minutes. Getting to groceries is about 7 minutes, and I can actually bring back enough stuff for a large family. School would be 1 or 2 minutes.

Oh, as a bonus, I never face the threat of personal crime.

No, you face a worse threat: automobile accidents


For some people, spending most of your life in a polluted, noisy, shitty apartment is giving up more life than the commute to work. It is unfortunate that we have to make such terrible choices.

> the subsidies went away

If you're talking about being able to claim mortgage interest on your taxes then that hasn't gone away yet. I don't know what other kinds of home owner subsidies exist.

I've never understood why people make such a big deal out of that deduction. It doesn't add up to very much in my experience - not enough to make it worth considering in one's decision about which house to buy, much less one's decision about whether one can afford to buy a house at all. If you're relying on the mortgage interest deduction to make homeownership affordable, you.... well... it's going to really hurt the first time an appliance breaks or you have to call the plumber or whatever. Better to keep renting.

> I've never understood why people make such a big deal out of that deduction.

It contributes to economic unfairness. Paying less taxes just because one owns a house is not optimal use of tax dollars when people who can't afford a house are doing pretty badly.

A homeowner pays less in housing costs (mortgages aren't subject to rent increases by a landlord) and pay less taxes than someone who rents who makes the same and they get to keep all the equity. It's incredibly unfair.

The historical reason for the subsidy is to increase home ownership. It's not really helping anymore.

That's the part I understand. What surprised me, when I bought a house, was that for all the talk about what a big deal this deduction was supposed to be, and how difficult it would supposedly be to eliminate it, the actual effect on my total housing cost was effectively negligible. They could roll it back tomorrow and I'd never notice.

You must not pay a lot of interest. I deduct this and my property taxes and it's thousands of dollars less that I pay each year. It's significant.

That's because this is a time of historically low interest rates. If rates were 12%, like they were when I got out of school, you'd definitely notice.

I've owned three homes and never taken the mortgage interest deduction. The historical reason is based on 20% down mortgages for less-than-2x-annual-income housing. That's clearly not much the case any longer. Now it's expected by the NAR and the general real estate industrial complex.

I've never understood why people make such a big deal out of that deduction

The reason is that this, like nearly everything else in this thread, only applies to the coasts or for houses that would be considered quite expensive elsewhere.

The median home value in St. Louis, for example, is less than $150k. The standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly is $12,600. The math is pretty simple from there.

I think it's because many people confuse deductions with credits, to confused a deduction for a credit makes it seem like a huge amount than the fraction amount the deduction translates to with taxes due.

For most people middle class and higher it lowers the effective interest rate by a third or more. That's a much lower interest rate and changes the math a lot.

Hm. I guess it doesn't matter to me because I bought at a time when the interest rate was practically nothing anyway (my mortgage is at 3.5%). I can see how it would have been a big motivating factor for people in my parents' generation, who are of course the same general class of people who would have been trying to convince me that the mortgage interest deduction was a big deal.

First-Time Homebuyer Credit. They stopped it after 2010 I believe

I wonder if many project builders have tried promoting plans that make a larger house easier to compartmentalise either for separate living for teenage kids, or to sublet to someone else? e.g., separate entrance and main rooms, perhaps shared but lockable laundry, etc.

Others have pointed out, but I will emphasize, that this runs smack into the local politics of suburbia. Most people don't want to live next to a multi-unit house, and so: 1) the value of homes around a multi-unit house will decrease, causing enmity and dislike between neighbors, and 2) neighbors will respond by forming HOAs that restrict the number of units allowed in a house. My own HOA, for example, completely bans renting out my entire house, much less subdivided portions thereof.

Reading this makes me so glad I live in a part of the country where there are no HOAs and where multi-unit houses (2 and 3 unit freestanding) are typical. It's a great neighborhood, and the high density means I can live within walkind distance of way more friends than in the part of the city where I grew up.

Why in god's name do people have such a problem with living near multi-unit housing?

Well, there's street parking, for one. In SF, for example, developers are not allowed to put as many parking spots as there are units. This is supposed to drive people to use mass transit, but more obviously increases demand for street parking. OTOH, single-family housing almost always has dedicated driveways/garages to eliminate this issue.

It's all about profit for the builder in relationship to municipalities and their zoning codes. Municipalities that were mostly formed around the time of the suburban building boom instituted very strict zoning and regulations around density, subdividing properties, adding in-law units etc.

Fast forward to today and in all but a few very progressive communities, the fear of changing these zoning laws negatively impacting property value has essentially frozen them in time. So in a lot of suburban areas you couldn't build separate living units on one single family lot, even if you wanted to. Or at least it would be quite costly.

For instance my brother-in-law is a planner in a suburban California city, discussed this once with him... apparently in his city you need to add 2 additional parking spaces for every extra housing unit added to your property. Want to make an in-law unit for grandma? 2 parking spots please. Don't have room for an extra driveway? No permit.

Basically unless new construction was zoned to be a higher-density area, for apartments or townhomes etc, for a developer it doesn't make much sense to build with extra units in mind. Especially if the builder has to put up a fight for permits or spend that much more money to meet code. In that case, it's more profitable to just be building condos.

Christopher Alexander talked about that in A Pattern Language, and the New Urbanist architects talk about/design for/build it quite often (the usual solution is the "carriage house" or "granny flat" but more generally the idea is to restrict zoning to address patterns of activity in public spaces, thus legalizing more variation in demographics and behaviors across time and short distances). It does not really fit into the mainstream (suburban) scheme of fastidious homogenization of uses and forms.

That would be called in duplex in most cases.

I think they don't because then you get into multi dwelling zoning and if the property was zoned for single-family homes it could get complicated (probably not by much).

In other countries it's common to live with your parents until you're married, or even a little bit past that. In America it's looked down upon. Nothing wrong with staying home, saving money (even if you pay rent to your parents, it's cheaper than living on your own). You can save money, pay for school, or not be forced to work a job by staying at home longer.

Yes, but if the current young generation of americans is poorer than the preceding generations (a conclusion I think is inescapable at this point), then it is worthwhile considering why.

The world is certainly richer than it was in the 80s. We are vastly more efficient at producing all sorts of goods. So, then, why is the current generation of Americans unable to afford what was available to the middle class previously?

I believe that the answers to this crucial question are obscure and are unlikely to be found in conventional economic and political analysis.

> Yes, but if the current young generation of americans is poorer than the preceding generations (a conclusion I think is inescapable at this point), then it is worthwhile considering why.

The answer is multifaceted, but part of the problem is that some of the major reasons are extremely politically inconvenient. For example, what are the economic consequences of women entering the workforce in large numbers in recent generations? Increased labor supply drives down wages per employee, then more two income families increase price inflation (especially real estate prices). Together they transfer most of the economic value of women working into the hands of employers and existing land owners, when the economic value of the domestic labor it displaced had previously gone primarily to the woman and her family. And people who remain single are extra screwed because they suffer the same wage and price consequences without the second income.

But for cultural and biological reasons when one spouse is a homemaker it will almost always be the wife rather than the husband, so policies that would increase the standard of living by reducing the number of two income families have consequences anathema to the left (fewer women working) and the right (less value captured by employers and land owners). So we don't talk about it.

> Increased labor supply drives down wages per employee

According to conventional economics, quite the opposite: it makes the economy bigger and creates more jobs.

(If growing the workforce increased unemployment, then bigger countries would have high unemployment and population growth would also increase unemployment).

don't forget upto 40% of her output goes to the government in taxes. so even the civil service / employees of the state (who don't care about left or right) prefer both working...

Or nearly 100% of the second income being hoovered up by the childcare racket, if they have children.

This is very true. We made the choice to have my wife stay home and raise our children rather than go back to work. We're fortunate to be able to do so, but when doing the math and calculating the after-tax income she's bring home, so much of that income would have gone straight to child-care that it was a no-brainier to have her be the caretaker in these early years of their development. The cost of childcare is a very real challenge for the United States.

Ditto here, though we hired a nanny the last 6 months before school-age since a good job opportunity came up for my wife. Now it seems he income just goes to pay taxes.

Exactly, that's why people in this society should all stop having kids. Then the problem will fix itself eventually.

>I believe that the answers to this crucial question are obscure and are unlikely to be found in conventional economic and political analysis.

I'm astounded by this comment. Are you saying that the obvious answers of asset based inflation caused by our monetary policy does not majorly impact real estate in a way that hurts younger generations and the middle class?

I can't see how. It's basic math.

If assets rise in price and two people are leveraged into assets the same amount, who gets richer, the person with a 100k asset or the person with a 500k asset?

I think you are on to the truth of the matter, but I don't think "asset based inflation" is the conventional wisdom.

I very much view this as an intergenerational financial war, the Boomers (and Greatest) on the Millennials and X.

Oh, lovely. No, that's not it. Asset-based inflation is very much the better answer because that's how exponential things play out. Low interest rates stop (mild) inflation from bleeding off asset bubbles, so people do that because there's no risk.

To the extent that Baby Boomers foemented low interest rates and low inflation ( although that's arguable too - the 1980s were not exactly peak Boomer years - see the 1990s for that to really take shape ) you are correct, but it's really just collateral damage. When you make this much more money sitting on land for umpety years until its developed, that's the business culture you'll end up with.

Throw in the effect of 401k plans dragging everybody into the stock market and you get an even fuller picture.

A lot of Boomers are really boned. Like, poor. More than is commonly written about.

ObDisclosure: I am a cusp baby between the Boomers and GenX, early '60s model.

It is a generational wealth transfer. But when boomers die, they're generally leaving that wealth to millenials, aren't they? Except that the boomers also have a lot of debt.

It is not generational wealth transfer, it is wealth transfer from the poor/middle class to the rich.

It just so happens a lot of the 'rich' are boomers and not rich are millennials, but that's current happenstance.

That would depend very much on how the wealth is consumed I would guess. If it is used to finance vacations to Mexico and throw away imported consumer goods, that wealth will be lost. If it was used to build nice cities and finance great art, it would be preserved.

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like it was used to build nice cities and finance great art.

> The world is certainly richer than it was in the 80s

It's debatable. I was in my 20's in the 80's. I was able to buy a 3br/2ba, 1500sq ft. house when I was 26. I had my school loans paid off a couple of years after I graduated - that's not happening for 20-somethings now.

> I believe that the answers to this crucial question are obscure

I don't think they're so obscure. If we are wealthier now, then it's likely that the wealth is in much fewer hands than it was in the 80's and before. Income stagnation. Wealth accumulating in fewer and fewer hands. Back in the 1860's Marx told us this is what happens in Capitalist economies. While you may not agree with his prescription (and I certainly don't agree with most of it) his diagnosis was pretty much spot on.

>It's debatable. I was in my 20's in the 80's. I was able to buy a 3br/2ba, 1500sq ft. house when I was 26. I had my school loans paid off a couple of years after I graduated - that's not happening for 20-somethings now.

No, it's really not debatable the world is richer than in the 80s. Much of that wealth has been accumulating outside the US, though, particularly in India and China.

With interest rates as low as they are you could definitely get into a 1500 sq ft. house by age 26 today. You just can't do it in the places many 26 year olds want to live.

There's no way that 26-year-olds can afford a 1500sf house in those areas because the only jobs available are at Walmart. The places where 26-year-olds can get good-paying jobs are also places where the real estate is much more expensive.

"No way"? In a lot of place you can get a 1500 sq ft house for under $150k.


At current interest rates you can make payments on a $150k home if you make $15/hr.


Where in the country can you not make $15/hr by age 26?

>Where in the country can you not make $15/hr by age 26?

Any town where the only jobs are at Walmart and the feed-and-seed store. Walmart doesn't pay those kinds of wages in rural locations (or probably anywhere else, unless you're a manager).

> Much of that wealth has been accumulating outside the US, though, particularly in India and China.

But from a US perspective we seem to be poorer now.

> With interest rates as low as they are you could definitely get into a 1500 sq ft. house by age 26 today. You just can't do it in the places many 26 year olds want to live.

I bought that house in a place where 26-year-olds want to live (a West Coast city). Interest rate was 10%, but I was able to pay off the mortgage in 9 years. I don't think a lot of 26-year-olds are in that position these days. Too much student loan debt and houses much more expensive as compared to incomes.

>that's not happening for 20-somethings now.

This chart [1] seems to imply that 21% of people under 25 own a house, which is higher than the 14% of under 25's who owned a house in 1994.


...maybe someone can check this against another data source.

Its richer overall, but is being spread less evenly.

We aren't poorer (well we might be a little bit because of the Great Recession), housing just costs a lot more than it used to.

Our parents just didn't get to buy a house for cheap. They also got all the increase in value. We have to buy an expensive house that probably won't increase in value all that much.

Why is housing more expensive? I'm not totally sure, but I suspect it's the effect of stretching suburbia to the limits. When my parents house was built it was the frontier between rural Illinois and the Chicago suburbs. Now it's considered a middle rung suburb. There are suburbs an hour further away from Chicago. But we've hit the limits on what a person can tolerate re:commutes. You just can't commute for over 2 hours each way.

We should be rezoning inner rung suburbs and cities for increased density housing.

Then again telecommuting and/or autonomous cars might destroy all the downsides to commuting.

> Why is housing more expensive?

Probably because land area is zero-sum and population is twice the size it was in the 60s.

Also rent-seeking, foreign investors buying houses with cash, etc.

It's a combination of factors.

> We should be rezoning inner rung suburbs and cities for increased density housing.

Agreed. Most of the suburbs are hideous, inefficient (most houses built before 1973 have marginal to no insulation) and in many places crumbling from age.

Instead of paying a mortgage, they pay student loans.

I think it's that simple.

The article points out that college-educated millennials are less likely to live with their parents than millennials who have not been to college.

For a while my student loans were more than my mortgage.

Coming from a country where education is free and renting (was) normal it sounds crazy to make so much debt. The 'crazy' is not meant offensive, more like interesting.

The wealth is somewhere. I know quite a few millennial friends who will be rich when their parents die, and quite a few who will have nothing.

Think they will be rich... Wait until the health care and other end of life costs start to add up. Even here in the UK they can be high, if you end up spending time in a 'home' that can quickly eat through savings. So unless there are amazing full life health care and other insurance policies covering these guys then there is ever chance that all that money could go.

Then the health care business owners will be rich, and then the health care business owners children!

This. The entire point of the establishment convincing people to hand over large chunks of their labour for fiat currency is because they are giving you peanuts. You can't cash it in! All these houses "worth" $1MM - who is going to buy them? Demographics are shifting as the boomers die off.

The new american dream: forget working, are your parents in real estate or not?

Even more,

Young Americans are living with their parents instead of saving money rather than living with their parents to save money.

What happens when they have children? Where will their adult children live? In their parents tiny 2 room apartments?

Basically, the full effects of the declining net income of adult Americans is being masked by people living off the accumulated wealth of their parents (both consuming their houses and getting hand-outs). Which implies that there's cliff that the American lifestyle will fall off at some point and then things will be ugly even in comparison to now.

The younger generation is simply not having children at the high rate of previous generations.

Anecodotally, most of my mid 30's friends have either 0 or 1 child, a few that got started earlier have two.

On the other hand, the millions of legal and illegal immigrants, especially from Latin America, are keeping the birth rate up. They do, in fact, many times live in much more crowded conditions. I have met a few Hispanic immigrants in my area as I speak Spanish, and in each case, they lived in single family homes with multiple families / generations.

I think three-generation households have been somewhat common throughout most of history, even in the USA (although admittedly probably not in the sort of high-rise apartment buildings where many people live now).

>high-rise apartment buildings where many people live now

Does anyone have a break down of what percentage of people live in single-family homes, vs. an apartment/other?

It does really matter how many generations one crams together, eventually net income has to pay for lodgings consumed.

The US was the only major industrial nation not to be completely devastated in WWI and WWII. They/we benefitted from this enormously throughout the 20th century. It was only a matter of time before things normalized.

Are you sure that that is correct?

Do you believe in the Ricardian argument for free trade? If so, why did we not become richer as other countries became better trading partners?

I don't think we have free trade (although I would certainly support it!). I think we probably are richer than we were pre-war. We're just not at the peak we were after the war when we had a monopoly on success.

We also profited greatly supplying the wars. We haven't had a "market" like that since then. The US was mostly its own customer during the cold war.

What other major industrial nation was not devastated during either World War? (I guess you can say "Canada" but I'm not sure how "major" or "industrial" they would have been in WWI).

You are assuming the conclusion.

My question is: the standard Ricardian argument for international free trade assumes that as trading partners become more productive, all trading partners benefit. Do you think this is the case? Certainly the original post does, as confirmed in his response.

If that is so, why would other countries becoming better at making things make us poorer?

It may have made America as a whole wealthier, but destroyed the working class.

It's caused by corruption in local governments. Not enough housing is being built; this means that prices rise until enough people are living with their parents or with enough roommates to cover the shortfall. The reason not enough housing is being built is because local governments are preventing it, using zoning. If the restrictions were loosened, rents would fall. If the restrictions were eliminated entirely, they'd fall precipitously.

Its a bit outdated, but the numbers have not radically changed[1] - around 10% of all housing is unoccupied in the US. Sure, its a huge place, and I can imagine few people want to live in Nowhere Nebraska, but that does not change the reality that we have some ~6x more unoccupied houses than homeless, and the vast majority of new construction is the same old unsustainable unaffordable suburban sprawl we have had run rampant with McMansions in this country for the past twenty years.


What we need is not the creation of new houses, but new cities, or the dramatic rebuilding of the old ones. We need high density urban environments with low cost of living built around foot and public transit, no cars, and with mixed use building again, without the zoning hell that currently cripples growth in almost every corner of the US today.

"We need high density urban environments "

Who is "we"?

Actual, real-world people vote against high-density urban environments with their feet, and pretty much always have. It's just that in past ages it was only the rich who could afford a country home. That's changed, thanks largely to modern transportation making it possible to work in the city and live in the burbs.

> Actual, real-world people vote against high-density urban environments with their feet, and pretty much always have.

If that were true, then the prices in high-density urban environments would be much lower than they actually are.

Nope. Supply enters into the price equation too.

To make this point a bit more strongly, there's a type of coffee called Kopi luwak that sells for $700/kilogram.


This coffee's claim to fame is that the beans have been eaten (and then excreted) by a cat-like animal called a palm civet.

Now, does that high price mean that most people want to drink this coffee? Nope. Most people would avoid it at all costs. There is a small group of connoisseurs who enjoy this coffee. The price is high because, as small as that group might be, the (tiny) supply is insufficient to satisfy their demand at any lower price.

Similarly, there's a subset of people (mostly, though not exclusively, young, single, and childless) who actually enjoy living in dense urban environments, and will drive up the price accordingly. Those people are not the norm.

"We" is society at large. And half the point of this article is that "young Americans" cannot afford those country homes with long commutes, and thus still live with their parents.

For the current upcoming generation, they do not have the means to afford those homes either. If you want to house them independently they need denser Urban living since modern transportation in the form of personal automobiles is also incredibly expensive.

'"We" is society at large.'

Society at large has decided that it likes suburbs and McMansions just fine. You don't get to make that decision for other people, just because you use the word "we".

'And half the point of this article is that "young Americans" cannot afford those country homes with long commutes'

Well, then, that's the problem needs to be solved, rather than patching it by forcing people back into the crowded urban environments that they so obviously do not want to live in.

'denser Urban living since modern transportation in the form of personal automobiles is also incredibly expensive.'

1) Why does it need to be dense and urban?

2) No, they aren't. In 1950 a median-priced new car cost about $1,500, somewhat more than half the median annual wage. Today you can get a new Ford Focus for about $17,000, which is... somewhat more than half the $32,140 median annual wage for those over 25.

Also, most families in 1950 had one car, period. Most families now have at least two. That doesn't tend to support your claim that cars have gotten more expensive.

'Society at large has decided that it likes suburbs and McMansions just fine.' No, the people with the money and land have decided that they like suburbs. I am sure that if a millennial could buy a small patch of land and build a small house on it for cheap, they would.

"No, the people with the money and land have decided that they like suburbs."

You don't have children, do you?

This is the reason given for why housing costs are high in the bay area, but is not really the reason why housing costs are high, at least in general. Only a small percentage of people actually want to live in shitty apartments in polluted, concrete cities. You can make a million apartments and it is not going to reduce the price of houses where most people actually want to live.

> I believe that the answers to this crucial question are obscure and are unlikely to be found in conventional economic and political analysis.

It's pretty straightforward actually. The change you're looking for starts in the 80s: http://eighty-thousand-hours-wp-production.s3.amazonaws.com/...

That's what, it is not why.


TL;DR Productivity is kept by corporations, wages are stagnant because of it, and the US doesn't have a strong labor political party.

Raise the minimum wage and index hours worked per week to productivity. Productivity goes up? People work less but make the same amount of income.

Productivity gains came from capital, e.g. computers, automation, etc.

This makes labor less valuable, and decreases labour's negotiating power, preventing an increase in wage from an increase in productivity.

That is, if your work is augmented by a machine, then it's a hell of a lot easier to replace you.

Right. Labor = citizens. Citizens = votes. And as a society, we can decide to tax your productivity to provide for said citizens (Human being quality of life > profits).

Everyone so quickly forgets, "Let them eat cake."

I've never seen a more accurate sound (text?) bite for the challenges that today's labour market are facing.

These will only be exasperated further by the onset of automation and robotics in the coming generation(s).

I don't have a doubt that we could easily turn around the benefits of automation and robotics towards favouring the middle and working classes.

My concern though, is that the few that are currently gaining wealth from reduced labour costs in favour of productivity have a stronger grasp on where this wealth goes, than the majority outside of socialist strongholds like Scandinavia and some European states. And that trend will continue.

Edit: grammar, shit pre\post-tense structuring.

Did Japan, who appears to be leading us by about a decade and a half, have the same issues?

I think the most likely culprit is what Steve Keen says it is: debt.

Surplus labor allows for the devaluing of labor. Japan doesn't have a surplus of labor (IMHO) due to lack of immigration and a quickly aging population.

Japan does have a labor surplus. That's why they have so many public sector make-work jobs doing things that could be automated or performed with fewer people.

Have details on this? My understanding is that Japan's unemployment rate is between 3.3 and 3.5 percent.

Unemployment is low because of the make-work programs that hide reality.

Can you provide citations or relevant links to where I can find information on these make-work programs?

Why is even easier. Rich people want more money and have better means of getting it.

Easier? Hmmm.

I wonder why rich people before 1980 wanted less money and had worse means of getting it.

> and had worse means of getting it.

Easy. It was harder and less acceptable to use international labor then, there were that many fewer college educated people, and that's 36 years behind the current level of automation technology.

>It was harder and less acceptable to use international labor then

This is very true. I know the big US car unions ended up screwing both the employees and employers, but have you ever wondered what would have happened in the 60's or 70's, had the line manager come over and told his assembly line team that they were going to not only be fired next month, but if they wanted a severance, they'd have to train their replacement recently imported from the third world?

I can guarantee you that there is a good chance this mgmt. team would probably end up dead or severely injured soon afterwards.

Today, the same circumstances elicit, at most, a few angry comments on some online media forum.

We've been conditioned well by out masters.

They also had a far less connected society where surveillance was /much/ less common and far more easily spotted.

I imagine the reasonable chance that someone snapping figured they could get away with it, particularly in a close knit group that routinely went fishing or hunting together and would say that's exactly where they were at the time something happened; was /much/ higher back then.

Also today everyone knows that someone else will just be hired to do the same thing. Today when some kind of correction does happen it'll either be approved from on high by those seeking to avoid an old-school revolution, or it will be a bloody zerg-rush.

Additionally, declining union membership means current workers have less ability to bargain for better wages.

This is a big thing that, oddly, a lot of folks in my cohort (~40s) are unwilling to admit.

You don't have to like unions to admit they benefited workers. In fact, the money spent on the destruction of unions points to it - why bother if they didn't help workers?

The post-WWII bargain, where productivity growth was split, is gone and not coming back. Whether there's a way to give workers a voice again or not is an interesting question.

Of course, if the class differential gets too big, there's always the pitchfork and torch route, which I don't think anyone (OK, most sane people) wants.

> It was harder and less acceptable to use international labor then

Yes, but we have been told that international free trade benefits us all. Do you disagree?

> there were that many fewer college educated people,

Yes, but we have been told that education is the key to our future, and a more educated workforce should be able to produce more and better goods for us all. Do you disagree?

> that's 36 years behind the current level of automation technology.

Yes, but automation was what dragged us out of the stone age and through the industrial revolution. It has, at times, apparently made us vastly richer. Do you disagree?

I don't say all this to be a dick (well, OK, kind of) and I agree to some extent with each of your points, but I think there is a larger issue at the root: debt.

I find Steve Keens analysis compelling.

> We have been told that international free trade benefits us all.

If you have 10 jobs paying people $10, and replace them with 50 jobs paying people $1, but keep the prices of the products the same; 10 people now don't have jobs, and 50 people each don't make enough money to buy any products. You've increased productivity 5x and cut costs in half but all of the gains go to shareholders.

> A more educated workforce should be able to produce more and better goods for us all.

Same as above.

> Automation...has, at times, apparently made us vastly richer.

Same as above.

> I think there is a larger issue at the root: debt.

It's the same issue. Debt is just another thing to rent to poor people.

I largely agree with your points. I was making the point that "polite intelligent society" does not.

On debt, you really should read Keen. He has the only predictive economic model I've seen that actually works, and debt is the crucial factor.

burdensome and protectionism oriented business regulations blocks new entrants and means of doing business. When over a third of jobs require some form of certification, especially in lower paying jobs, it puts an unfair burden on employers and employees. When you can simply get government to regulate away your competition job growth is stifled.

it is always government. from sucking too much money out of the banking industry to make available for business needs to government trying to pick favorites in new industries and distorting the markets. from playing rate games, backing securities, to inducing lending risk by pressuring banks to lend to those they would prefer not too

Even the ACA damaged the ability of those to earn a living by putting in place that infamous twenty hour rule. That wasn't done to benefit working people, that was done to benefit certain types of employers but more it was done to distort unemployment numbers by artificially raising the number of people needed to do that same amount of work each week. This ain't much different than pleads to make college free, keep able bodied people off the job lines.

Sure many of the rich are getting richer but they only do so because those writing the laws are in constant election and reelection cycles. Where they try to write laws prevent you businesses and such putting money into politics but slip in rules that allow PACs to take 350k from one person; provided "wink wink" its not targeted to a specific politician.

tl;dr. Government is the source of the wage stagflation.

Your idea that there is some fundamental difference between big government and big business is false. Power is power.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. Big Business doesn't have people with guns that can come into your house and kill you or arrest you.

No, they just buy off politicians who then send people with guns to...etc.

>it is always government.

It is never this simple.

Population growth is one of the major reasons. There are simply more people competing for the same fixed amount of real estate.

To me it seemed like the normal cyclic nature of economics. We had a bubble around 2006-2007, and when it was ready to crash / correct the governments around the worlds threw everything at keeping asset prices high (we have had "emergency" low interest rates here in Europe for ~8 years)now. Great if you are older / richer. Shit if you are under 40.

> (a conclusion I think is inescapable at this point)

It's not obvious to me. Possibly only because I'm uninformed, though, so feel free to point me at any relevant data.

There are a variety of trends which could be happening and which might explain this particular cohabitation-with-one's-parents phenomenon without having to mean that the current young generation has less wealth than its predecessors.

You could start by compare the ratio of executive pay to regular worker pay in both periods.

We've been kicking our earnings up to the top more and more.

I think it's double-ended - if Mom and Dad bought a 4,000 sq ft monster with a three car garage, why not occupy some of it? I think simply calling it "poorer" is a different thing.

My uncles lived with their Mom until they got married. They are roughly Silent Generation or WWII. Its just The Way It Was. We had a massive housing boom; now it's over.

That's true, in Italy this is definitely the norm, but this kind of screwed up economy that only functions for the oligarchy has also been the norm in Italy for hundreds of years so there would seem to be a correlation between not having families and people being stuck under systems of oligarchy.

Your argument is just people making excuses. If our food quality went down or the quality of our air went down due to pollution, would you still be quoting "oh well it used to be so much worse in the 40's so don't complain" ???

This is a BAD sign. It is indicative of an economy that is not working for most Americans. Making excuses and disregarding these proxies for American quality of life does no one favors except for the 1%.

>In other countries it's common to live with your parents until you're married, or even a little bit past that.

You are also not allowed have sex in these countries. Sexual repression sucks ass. I would take poverty over sexual repression. As someone who has experienced this; it has had major psychological impact on my life that I feel the effect to this day. And I am not alone, millions of youth in my country experience this. Imagine what kind of society that breeds, imagine living in a sex segregated society.

I have been living in countries where it's perfectly normal to live with your parents until you are married, which are no different in terms of sexual freedom (of freedom in general) or quality of life than the US.

It sucks if it not the case with your country, but do not make it a general case.

Curious which countries are these if you don't mind saying.

Pretty much the whole Europe, except UK and Scandinavian countries.

Italy, Spain, France.

Living at home while working at even a decent paying tech job is a great way to save tons of money or pay loans. Definitely something I've considered doing. Also works great with remote jobs.

Sure but of course most people who live with their parent do so because they can't afford to do otherwise regardless of the clever few who aim to save even more money.

I thought living with your parents in other countries was more of an aspect of a collectivist culture, versus a hyper-individualistic culture here in the US. I'm not arguing for or against either, my point being that it is simply countercultural and is probably not due to a culture shift but rather other external factors. Any culture experts care to comment?

In Romania, especially in its rural parts, it's customary to keep one of the offspring if not with the parents then at least somewhere close to parental home. Families encourage their kids to grow and develop themselves, and support them in doing so up to a certain point in time. Afterwards, they go in the other direction and "encourage" through all their available leverages retention inside the family, and this goes in various forms, from mild pleas for payback care up to heavy psychological pressure with nasty tricks and everything, that stops only when a decision was made by one of their children. The "lucky" one becomes their heir and caretaker and the others are released off the hook. If you're better with or off your parents depends on the times you're living in (be it Romania or other place), but clearly that's not something as simple as a cultural trait.

In Mexico it's more the case of not being able to afford living alone if you're not a college educated professional; also roommates are not a common thing in Mx as there is always a general lack of trust towards strangers

In France the idea of a young adult living with parents was so alien that it was enough to make a movie about it in the 90s. Now it's the reality for half the population.

If everyone is saving money prices will climb up and most of them will end up with nothing.

What should be done is that market should be encouraged to provide enough housing that young people can afford when they need it. Same way Ford did with cars.

>> In America it's looked down upon.

Is there an ethnic variation to this, or does this apply to all groups?

Definitely ethnic variations. I've known plenty of people who are relatively new to the US and still hold a lot of their previous customs about the living arrangements of children and young adults.

My impression is that most Americans look at it and say "that's different", but don't look down on it.

there are ethic variations if not some that developed regionally. however a lot also deals with perceptions built up over time. Farm communities tend to see this for farms passing to the next generation.

The college industry is big money and they are incessant in their message that if you spend tens of thousands you will be a success. This implies that those who don't are not trying or worse.

You think there isn't, I think there is. And not just the US, western countries.

You will notice the important of the individual in these countries, getting out on your own, supporting yourself. being your own person, not what your parents want to be.

This is a good thing.

> In other countries it's common to live with your parents until you're married, or even a little bit past that. In America it's looked down upon.

Its quite common in America, too.

This is true, but now you are saving for a meager deposit so you can take on a mountain of debt so that the rentiers can keep all your labour.

This is not a good development, even if they used to do it in England in the 18th century.

To be clear, that's always been the case. Looking historically, the brief period in which the working class enjoyed a modicum of wealth in the 20th century is an aberration, not a historical precedent.

Always doesn't mean that it is a good thing.

Humans always starved, always died of infections, always were mass-murdered. Why is that even an acceptable reason? All the XX century was about changing things that were considered constant. Have we given up?

History should lead us somewhere. Is this already lost on us?

I never said it was a good thing and I agree we should take steps to oppose rentiers. I'm just pointing out that the norm of easy homeownership is actually quite recent and unusual.

The norm of easy ownership of anything is quite recent. Any wealth was scarce. But now there's no reason why everybody won't have some place to live for them.

Same for voting. What's your point?

I wonder how the average amount of free space per dwelling has changed over the last 50 or so years...

Perhaps this trend could be explained to some extent by the fact(?) that mommy & daddy have a lot more space at home nowadays than daddy's parents did when he turned 18, making living with the parents more attractive to today's young adults than it was to prior generations.

Not at all suggesting this would be the only likely factor, of course.

Houses today are much bigger. This is one of those things that people often forget when comparing current economic markers or generations to the past. Our standard of living is simply much higher today. The average house had approximately 500 sqft per person in 1973 but had increased by roughly 65% by 2010.


- https://www.census.gov/const/C25Ann/sftotalmedavgsqft.pdf

- http://www.statista.com/statistics/183648/average-size-of-ho...

> Median and Average Square Feet of Floor Area in New Single-Family Houses Completed by Location

There are some caveats there: these data are for new, single-family houses only.

In many urban job centers, people tend not to live in new housing, or in single-family homes -- particularly not people between 18 and 35.

The number of households has roughly doubled since 1970.


So lots of people are living in newer homes.

That may be true, but that's not a good data set to use either way.

The graph only accounts for 45 million houses in the US, including only the houses owned by the young and the old. But that is a small fraction of US homes. (If those were all homes, the average household size would be 7 people.)

Sorry, I hadn't read it carefully. This should be for all households and shows the same pattern, albeit with a less useful display:


Those exact same houses from the 70s (even from the 50s, in fact) are selling for seven figures near me. That's about 20x the median household income in my city.

That's what blows me away about San Francisco. Not only are you paying 10x ($1.5M) what most people in the US pay for a house ($150K), you're getting a lot less house at the same time.

We're talking going from ~2000 sq. ft. to ~1100 sq. ft., old construction, no insulation, etc.

If you really wanted to make a comparison between equal houses, the difference is more like 20x ($3M for a similar house in the Bay Area).

This is exactly right and it works both ways.

If you're comparing NYC to St. Louis and desire a 60th floor apartment in a high rise, then the COL difference is infinity or mu or NAN or something. You simply can't make the comparison.

The same is true when comparing the average detached home in the Midwest to San Francisco. For most people, the answer to, "how much more would I have to make to buy the same house out there?" is "it doesn't matter, because you'll never make that much."

The article strongly refutes your assertion that "Our standard of living is simply much higher today."

Obviously the standard of living is in decline. An article such as this provides some evidence, as does the well known fact that the male median wage has been in decline since 1973.

I don't see any such refutation in the OP. And our standard of living is obviously far higher than at any time in the past. Even given wage (lack of) changes, the access to more and better medicines, having at our fingertips the entire artistic output of the history of the world, safer and longer-lasting cars, longer life expectancy, ubiquitous and free to nearly-free instantaneous communication, ubiquitous good sanitation, refrigeration, lower crime rates, lower pollution, and on and on.

I can't fathom how anyone can claim that virtually any American is better off than his counterpart from any time in the past. So let's do a thought experiment: can you pick a past time in USA history where you'd like to be transported, keeping everything else (such as your economic quintile) equal, where you'd be better off? Or forget about keeping things equal, would you rather go back a hundred years and be in John Rockefeller's shoes? There's a good argument to be made [1] that you're better off than he was.

[1] http://cafehayek.com/2016/02/40405.html

I'd give up current times to go back to the 50s-70s where you could comfortably live on one income in the suburbs.

I don't much care for safer cars, longer life expectancy, instant world wide communications compared to the freedom of living a much better life during one of the most prosperous times in US history. Quality of life experiences feels like it was much better before the 21st century race to the bottom. What's the point of living "better" if you're going to be chained to a desk or job for 50-60 years, or constantly have to retrain decade after decade?

>I'd give up current times to go back to the 50s-70s where you could comfortably live on one income in the suburbs.

You can still do that if you're willing to make sacrifices. A colleague of mine gets by on one income - I don't know what he makes now, but he started at $35k about five years ago. And this is in the SF bay area.

When you do the math having both spouses working doesn't increase your standard of living very much because of taxes and child care.

>where you could comfortably live on one income in the suburbs.

Does anyone have statistics on how many "traditional" single-income households there are in the U.S.? I live with my wife and four kids (home schooled) in a fairly large house, with a single income under that is apparently under the starting salaries for newly minted software-engineering graduates in the big urban areas.

You might enjoy watching: "The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975": http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1592527/

It provide an interesting view on the late 60s to mid 70s in the US.

On the other hand, the lives of people who are non-white, non-male, non-straight, or any combination thereof.

...the access to more and better medicines...

Not that I think white Americans deserve some extra-consideration but the recent decline in the life expectancy of white Americans [1], coupled with indeed further medical discoveries, seems like a demonstration that the effective decline in wages is able to outpace even these better medicines.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/20/health/life-expectancy-dec...

Most of the improvements are superficial, apart from medicine maybe.

- Housing

- Education

- Quality of jobs

- Career growth

- Job security

These are less accessible than 30-40 years ago, while surely you can enjoy the magic of Facebook on your shiny iPhone, which were admittedly unavailable then.

Medicine's not improved much either. Mostly access has improved for the underprivileged.

Robert Gordon makes the point in his book, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, that life expectancy improved twice as much from 1900 - 1950 as from 1950 - 2000.

lol this is complete propaganda. Whether you realize it or not.

> And our standard of living is obviously far higher than at any time in the past

Human health declined beginning with the agricultural era. I mean, you don't even have any knowledge of every time in the past, yet you are so confident in claiming our lives have never been better.

> the access to more and better medicines, having at our fingertips

You do realise that the extreme majority of illnesses experienced today are caused by the modern world and lifestyles? These medicines are designed to fix problems that didn't exist previously. The most commonly sold medicine is probably heart medication or something like that. These were things people did not experience 50,000 years ago, or even 500 years ago.

> safer and longer-lasting cars

Do you realise that most people just use cars to sit in traffic for hours going to a job they hate? You consider that a sign of how great things are?

> longer life expectancy

Well it is now declining, but quality over quantity. Sitting around at 90 years old watching tv isn't something I would count as life.

> ubiquitous and free to nearly-free instantaneous communication

social media and communication over the internet is a terrible replacement for real-life communication. Social media is actually really depressing. There are even recent studies that link time on social media with depression.

These forms of communication are usually just a sign of isolation.

> refrigeration

great for ice-cream

> lower pollution

lol? Climate change?

> I can't fathom how anyone can claim that virtually any American is better off than his counterpart from any time in the past

I can't even fathom how someone who hasn't lived in any time but now can make that statement. Literally any time in human history? How was it like, I don't know, 200,000 years ago? Tell us. You will mention lower life expectancy. That is mostly due to infant mortality rates. Many people lived until they were 70. They had actual lives, not sitting at a computer typing shit all day.

Everything you say is complete propaganda of a corrupt capitalist society and you don't even realise it.

> I can't even fathom how someone who hasn't lived in any time but now can make that statement. Literally any time in human history? How was it like, I don't know, 200,000 years ago? Tell us. You will mention lower life expectancy. That is mostly due to infant mortality rates. Many people lived until they were 70. They had actual lives, not sitting at a computer typing shit all day.

For an account of living in agricultural (pre-industrial) society, I wholeheartedly recommend "The Peasants" by W. Reymont - the Nobel prize winning, extremely realistic account of how life was in a small village in central Poland around year 1900. In short: everyone was working pretty hard, but only the peasants who owned land were living a decent life. The others (a majority) worked on farms owned by the village's "elite" and always feared about their future (not to mention they sometimes didn't even own homes so they slept in for example their master's stable, next to the piles of horse shit). On the other hand, the work was more varied that most jobs today and there wasn't that much to do in the winters so everyone rested then.

I would absolutely go back 100 years and live John Rockefeller's life. I certainly value a lot of the advancements we've made since then, but for me luxury means not having to work!

I don't know if there's any reasonable way you can actually measure "standard of living", since it arguably includes "happiness" which is difficult to quantify.

Except he worked hard a good part of his life--whether or not a lot of people here agree with his goals. (And worked quite hard on philanthropy as well.)

John D. Rockefeller also did live to a rather old age. Not everyone in that era was as fortunate.

"I don't see any such refutation in the OP."

Maybe you missed the sub-title, which is "For the first time since the 1880s, more young Americans are living with their parents than with a romantic partner."

"I can't fathom how anyone can claim"

I can't fathom that you mean this literally so I assume you offer this in the rhetorical sense. You may wish to consider "Don't Get Offended":

"One oft-underestimated threat to epistemic rationality is getting offended. While getting offended by something sometimes feels good and can help you assert moral superiority, in most cases it doesn't help you figure out what the world looks like. In fact, getting offended usually makes it harder to figure out what the world looks like, since it means you won't be evaluating evidence very well."


I am guessing that, in reality, you do have the power to fathom such a thing. If you need help, there are thousands of well-reasoned essays on the web, which make the point that you claim to have difficulty fathoming. Google will steer you to them.

Or you can play Devil's Advocate to your own mind, and make the case yourself, to yourself.

My point is that most of these metrics just use sticker prices. If you say something like wages have decreased in relation to housing and automotive prices, you can't ignore that houses are bigger today and automobiles are more reliable. If the median car price has stayed the same but your car now lasts you almost 100% longer [1], that is a stable sticker price but a 50% percent reduction is the yearly cost. If the median price of a house has increased by 75% [2] but the house is 50% bigger, the effective price increase is barely above inflation.

[1] - http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/pub...

[2] - https://www.census.gov/const/uspricemon.pdf

The problem with the argument that uneconomic factors have improved is not just that these are hard to measure but that a lot of folks have an interest in fudging the measurements.

Inflation adjusted wages have been quite stagnant while measures of inflation are rather dubious to say the least. My old car is indeed a bit more reliable than my previous old car but both were reliable - I can't see that compensating for more or less everything costing more relative my relatively fixed income.

You seem like the type who is unlikely to change an opinion, so I'm not going to expend any more effort on this. However, for your own edification, you might want to stop and ask yourself whether this:

"If the median price of a house has increased by 75% but the house is 50% bigger, the effective price increase is barely above inflation."

can be reconciled to this:

"For the first time since the 1880s, more young Americans are living with their parents than with a romantic partner."

People are angry about the decline in the standard of living, and for most us, the justification for that anger is obvious.

>You seem like the type who is unlikely to change an opinion

There is no need to be rude. I posted twice in this conversation and linked to sources both times. I'm not sure how that gives the impression that I am being unreasonable.

>ask yourself whether this...can be reconciled to this...

It certainly can because they are measuring two separate things. Housing costs are up, but on a rate basis they are not as far up as most think. More Americans are living at home. The former is likely partially responsible for the latter, but it is unlikely that it is the only cause. As the article suggests, another cause is likely that younger people simply aren't living with romantic partners as much as the number of people living alone is also higher.

You really seem stuck on that one sentence from the article, but it doesn't say what you're trying to read into it. It does not say that standard of living has decreased. Heck, it doesn't even imply that. The only thing you can really get out of that text is that people's circumstances and priorities have changed. The change might be a decrease, but there's no need to read that into it.

I think we're confused about the definition of "standard of living"

Spot on. Every time I mention the high price of homes and how hard it is for non-boomers to enjoy such things as their own home, possibility of kids, family, stable jobs, there's never a shortage of defenders telling me that I'm out of line: they didn't live in a McMansion and get a new iPhone every year; younger folk have it easy and complain too much.

Well sorry, the exact same 1200 ft^2 brick home built in the 50s, that you bought for 2 year's salary (with a high school education) in the 70's, NOW costs 6 times my salary (or 12 times the median salary for the area).

The $600 iPhone which I absolutely need for any modern job (thanks to BYOD) isn't gonna make a dent in the cost of housing, health care, and college these days.

> The $600 iPhone which I absolutely need for any modern job (thanks to BYOD)

I agree with your overall point that things like housing, healthcare, and education are much more expensive today and are much more difficult to acquire, securely, on a median income. However, when you say things like "I absolutely need a $600 iPhone for any modern job", it comes across like out-of-touch whining. No, you do not need the latest iPhone for any modern job. You want the latest iPhone. You can get a very capable, brand new Android phone for around $100 bucks.

In the same way that client-facing bankers don't need to wear suits.

If part of your job is conveying status, bringing an Android to work conveys a completely different kind of status than an iPhone. It may not feel good, but that doesn't mean $600 for an iPhone, even when you can barely afford food/rent, is poorly spent.

If you're in a position where 1) your phone is out of your pocket and 2) you need to impress people, I'd be willing to bet you can afford the nicer phone or justify its cost to your management.

Functionally you don't need a smartphone to do most work. And that's coming from someone who works with the devices at a major telecom...

Oh, puhleeze, this is just straight up bullshit. A client-facing banker may need to wear a suit, but no one gives a shit if it's a Saville Row bespoke version. If it's so important for your job that you need an iPhone because an Android is somehow for the unwashed masses, you can afford it.

Jobs? Jobs? Jobs?

Live in SF bay area and save up $50k (One year if you could make $120k(?) and live with your parents?). Buy two $25k houses, one to live in, one to rent out for your living expenses. Semi-retire. ?

That's great for the small minority of people like you or me for whom that ("just make $120k. just go save $50k annually.") is a realistic achievable plan.

Everyone else who's not in this small minority still has a right to complain about coastal/urban housing prices.

Yeah, just to be clear, the question marks in the original were my attempt at saying I was unsure of how realistic the proposition was. Certainly hanging around HN, you could easily come to the conclusion that $120k is essentially a starting salary for software engineers in the Silicon Valley area (and how that's not enough, since the VCs are always taking the bulk of the value). But I don't have a feel for how "true" that is. My own personal story is that I live on a large plot of land in a large house, and support a wife and 4 kids on a significantly smaller income in fly-over country.

You probably need to look at the median house size as well as the average house size.

Also, I strong suspect this varies by region and suburb versus city.

The census data linked does break it down by region (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West) and by city versus rural (Inside MSA and Outside MSA). It also lists both average and median. The exact rate of increase obviously varies depending on these facts, but the pattern is the same, American houses today are just bigger.


Actually looking at your data, it's the size of newly built houses. So definitely the houses themselves are getting bigger.

But with the occupants of all the houses, old and new, getting on average poorer, I'd be most interested in the average and median square footage that Americans live in and I don't think your data really gives data on that.

I would also add in the usable space (number of usable rooms). Many houses come with a formal dining room combined with a formal living room (often called the great room); they then have a family room that flows into the kitchen. Add in an oversized master bedroom, and you have quite a bit of square footage but not really anything you can do with it that you couldn't do with smaller houses.

This is an excellent point. Why is "living in mom and dad's basement" wrong and "living in <someone else's> basement" acceptable? Why do we need 2 people (mom and dad) taking up an entire 4k-6k sq ft "single family" dwelling sitting on 1/4-1/2 acre of land?

This country has a housing problem and this is the root of it.

Living in Mom and Dad's basement is fundamentally different than living with your peers. It's typically very socially limiting, and a sign of stagnating development.

I say this as someone who lived with his parents for two years during college, and would gladly pay the $12k/year it would have cost me to get those two years back, so maybe I'm biased, but nearly everyone I've talked to who's been living with their parents has had negative ramifications from it. Some romantic, some social development, some just general annoyance re: dealing with their parents quirks.

And I mean as a parent, my goal is helping my child develop into a fully autonomous adult. Fully autonomous does not mean 'depends on me for housing.'

I appreciate what you are saying here, but IMHO it's a relationship problem, not a housing one. Just as you would have gladly lived away from your parents, I gladly lived with mine (and did so in college).

My landlord doesn't think he has a right or obligation to control my behavior. If I'm not making too much noise or destroying the apartment I can do whatever I want. I will never have to ask permission to throw a party, never have to explain where I'm going when I leave, and never have to introduce my guests to him. I never even have to talk to him.

I very much prefer a simple "check-in-mailbox" relationship with the person who owns my dwelling. I actually like my parents, but I sure don't want them as landlords!

Agreed. I had a very nice childhood and I couldn't wait to get out of my parents place. There is something invigorating about being in complete control of your own life.

I moved out when I was 18 and never went back.

Now that us kids are out of the house my parents party way harder than I did as a teenager.

>Why do we need 2 people (mom and dad) taking up an entire 4k-6k sq ft "single family" dwelling sitting on 1/4-1/2 acre of land?

>This country has a housing problem and this is the root of it.

This country has practically unlimited space for housing. We do not have land short; much less a land shortage caused by people living in comfortable houses.

You don't have to convince me. You have to convince Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, tech companies in the valley, etc...

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