At what age do young people leave home? The trends in Europe and the US

Elizabeth Smith

According to data reported by Eurostat, the average age at which children leave their parents’ home in Europe is over 26. The report showed significant differences between countries and according to various factors including gender.

What are the differences in Europe?

The countries with the lowest number of young adults in the 25-34 age group still living with their parents are Denmark with just 3.2%, Finland with 4.7% and Sweden with 6%. At the other extreme we find Croatia with 59.7% of young adults still living with their parents, Slovakia with 57% and Greece with 56.3.

Very similar is the ranking of the average age at which children leave the parental home. In the lead is Montenegro with an average age of 32.8 years. Followed by Croatia with 31.8 years and Slovakia with 30.9. Italy is fourth with young people leaving home on average at 30.1 years.

he lowest averages, once again, are recorded in the Nordic countries. In the leading Sweden people go to live alone before the age of 20. This is followed by Luxembourg, Denmark and Finland with averages just over 20 years. And France, Germany, the United Kingdom and Belgium still under 25 years.

What are the trends?

Differences aside, it is interesting to note that the results of research conducted by the Pew Research Center show that in almost all Western countries, the average age at which young people leave the parental home has increased significantly over the last twenty years.

Whereas in 1997, only 19.5% of young people in England were still living with mum and dad, in 2017 the percentage had jumped to 25.9%.

The same is true in the United States. Where, for example, in California as many as 1 in 4 25 to 33 year olds still live with their parents. And, in Australia, where the percentage of 20 to 24 year olds who have not yet moved out has risen from 36% in 1981 to 43% in 2017.

What are the underlying reasons?

First of all, it must be emphasised that all the studies on the subject also point to positive effects of staying at home with one’s parents for longer, so one should not generalise but analyse case by case.

Having said this necessary premise, one of the most influential motivations is certainly financial. In fact, in practically all Western countries, even those with lower youth unemployment, purchasing power has declined in recent decades. Especially when it comes to buying or renting a house.

As an extreme example just look at the United States. According to Curbed’s calculations in 1959 a teacher earned the equivalent of today’s $44,493 per year. And an average house in California cost the equivalent of $109,419 (i.e. less than 3 years’ salary). Today the same teacher earns $72,340 a year. But the same house costs about $1.61 million (or over 22 years of income).

The same is true in the UK. There, house prices have doubled in the last twenty years and a 27-year-old today is half as likely to be a homeowner.

In the opposite direction but with the same result, as life expectancy has risen, the decline in purchasing power in recent decades has impacted pensions and welfare payments almost everywhere. Thus making it increasingly necessary for children to look after their parents. Finally, financial motivations must certainly be accompanied by cultural and value motivations.

Read also: Demographic bombshell in Europe: Italy plunges, Germany resists falling birth rate

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