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August 23, 2010


Dear Dana,

I agree. In addition, I think the NYT article is forgetting about the long-term benefits of multi-generational homes.

My 90 yr old father--who would hate to go to a nursing home--is delighted to be sharing a home with my boomer-era brother. My father helped us out as adults, and we now help him out. After all, the nuclear family is a relatively modern invention. My paternal great-grandmother lived in my grandmother's house as a matter of course. Amicably, I might add.

One day, Robin Marantz Henig will be a very old lady in a nursing home. At that time, she can think about the former 20-somethings who have chosen to take their elderly parents into their homes. Perhaps, as she uses her walker to navigate the institutional hallways, she will realize that these 20-somethings were not as immature as she had supposed.

There's a sweet story about my great-grandmother, who was born around 1865 and was the second wife of a civil war veteran. When my aunt was going through her papers, she found numerous affectionate letters to my g-grandmother from her stepchildren. When my aunt remarked on the fact to a cousin, the cousin replied, "Of course they wrote her. She used her money to put them through college!" These dependent young adults would have been educated in the late 19th century when a college education was far from the norm. They might have even lived at home when they were 20-somethings!

Debt is such a huge factor in this equation. The phenomenon of racking up tens of thousands in debt for a bachelor's degree is a pretty brand new phenomenon. When our parents' generation went to college, it was affordable, and a bachelor's degree held a ton of value.

I just can't imagine anyone suggesting that it's better to rush into parenthood in order to meet some arbitrary life milestone than to wait until you can actually afford it.

The "slackers" genre is an old one. Here's someone from my generation trying to defend us against the bumper crop of those kinds of stories back in the early 90's recession:


(By the way, the book isn't as badly written as the reviews suggest.)

I thought you would write about this. I thought a HUGE flaw in the article was its failure to criticize the five "markers of adulthood" described by sociologists: moving out, education, financial independence, marriage, and kids. After all, a generation that has been raised in so many divorced families has learned that maturity does not come with marriage or kids. Also, the idea of socially and financially independent nuclear families is recent and American. In most of the world and through most of history we've lived in more interdependent family groups.

Noam, that's a great point. The article is definitely based on the assumption that those markers of adulthood are both legitimate and universal.

I'm generation X, and I went through my midlife crisis in my 20s even though I probably would have been better off financially if I'd stayed on the straight and narrow. (I wasn't able to live with my parents.) It's not universal but I do think that deep cultural changes (not the economy) are changing when people feel ready to be adults (and what they have to do to get there). At the same time I can see how the economy is hard on 20-somethings today and how the concept of a new life stage would push a lot of buttons.

im hardly a 20something anymore (turn the big 30 in a month+) but i hated having to move back in with parents. after college then-boyfriend-now-husband moved to a big city in search of careers with some financial assistance from both our parents. after a year and change of living independently and doing quite well, we had a child and realised that "big city living" was just not going to be within our budget. so we moved back to his parents with the idea that it would just be until husband found a job and then we'd move out. 6 months tops. a little over two years, it taking about a year for husband to find a decent job, and other child later we finally were able to afford our own house.

granted, we are where we are today because of those two years of subsidised living, but for various reasons, i HATED living "back home." i felt like a free-loader, though we tried to pay our own way for most living expenses, and a child. most of all, i hated not having the control over MY family. i was a wife and mother and but my husband was still mainly "their son" and my children were perpetually at "gramma's house." it almost broke my marriage.

Very well-written and to the point.

I think it is also worth examining cultures outside of the U.S.A. In South America and Europe, for example, most young people live at home until they graduate college and/or get married. To be 24, working a full-time job, and still living at home is not uncommon.

Americans need to realize that we are not at the top anymore and we probably won't be for a very long time. As times change, so should expectations.

I myself am one of the twenty-somethings who chose to move abroad and find work...or as the original article described it; to "travel." I applied for jobs for 6 months in the states where I received little to no replies. When the opportunity arose for me to use my unique skill set and work abroad, I leapt.

I like to think that our generation is more focused on being happy with what we are doing as opposed to doing what we are "supposed" to.

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