What Are Boomerang Children?

Boomerang children, or boomerang kids, is a term used to describe the phenomenon of an adult child returning home to live with their parents for economic reasons after a period of independent living.

About 15% of millennials were living in their parents’ home as of 2016 as well as 10% of Gen-X'ers, according to Pew’s analysis of the most recent census data.

Key Takeaways

  • Boomerang children are young adults or other adult children who move back in with their parents after living on their own.
  • Often, boomerang children return to their parents for economic reasons such as low wages, low savings, high debt, or unemployment.
  • Family circumstances such as divorce that can compound financial woes are also a contributor the growing "boomerang generation."

Understanding Boomerang Children

Boomerang is an American slang term that refers to an adult who has moved back home to live with parents after a period living independently. Frequently used in the press, this term is sometimes applied to individuals, but also describe a generational shift, referred to as the boomerang generation.

When applied to an individual, a boomerang indicates a person who returns home due to overwhelming or unsustainable costs associated with maintaining a separate household.

Generationally, the term references the economic shift that occurs after the Baby Boom generation, based on the notion that subsequent generations, including Generation X and Millennials, will be the first generations in American history to earn less than their parents.

64 million

A record 64 million Americans live in multigenerational households according to the Pew Research Center.

Impact of the Boomerang Generation

U.S. Census figures indicate that in 2016, a third of all young adults aged 18 to 34, approximately 24 million people, resided with their parents; and 90 percent of young adults who were living with their parents in the year prior remained so. In 2016, more young adults in the U.S. lived with their parents than with a spouse. 

Census data also indicates that since 1981, the rate of adult children living with parents has risen steadily.

Because of the increasing prevalence of boomeranging, many analysts and academics have launched inquiries into the phenomenon, identifying factors such as economic instability, rising divorce rates, and delays in first marriages as contributing factors.

There are many potential benefits to parental households welcoming boomerangs back home, including emotional benefits of avoiding empty nest syndrome, as well as mutual financial support with household expenses. However, such arrangements can present significant financial complications. For instance, boomerangs may present a drain on a parent’s retirement savings, sometimes prompting a decision to delay retirement

Boomerangs Around the World

While the term boomerang primarily refers to an American phenomenon, other countries experiencing similar conditions have adopted descriptive terms to identify the children who return, or never leave, home. In Italy, such children are identified as “mammon,” or “mama's boys,” while the Japanese reference “parasaito shinguru,” which translates to “parasite singles.” In the U.K., children boomeranging back home has given rise to the acronym KIPPERS (or Kids In Parents' Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings).

In many cultures, however, intergenerational cohabitation is common practice, and in many ways, the practice of adult children moving away from parents is a more modern practice facilitated by Western industrial development and an overall trend for generations to pass increased prosperity to the next generation.