Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nearly 30 million Americans are spending their 20s in the same place they spent their grade school years: at home with their parents.

The big picture: For the first time since the Great Depression, the majority of 18- to 29-year-olds have moved back home. Those living arrangements can come with a great deal of awkwardness and pain, but families across America are making the most of it.

"I’m worried about it," says Jeffrey Arnett, a psychologist at Clark University, who coined the term "emerging adults" for 18- to 29-year olds. "I think we all should be. The rates of being depressed and anxious have really gone up among emerging adults."

Reasons for moving home vary. The coronavirus recession has hit young people especially hard, and many are living with family because they've lost their jobs or haven't been able to find work after college or grad school.

Others wanted some company during lockdowns.

  • "You can’t imagine how great it is to hear that I’m in the majority of my generation," says Elsa Anschuetz, a 24-year-old working in public relations out of her childhood bedroom. "It is definitely not where I thought I’d be at this stage in my life, but, at least to me, it is definitely better than living in an apartment alone during this crazy pandemic."
  • "My friends who are at home or with friends in large roommate groups seem to be faring better than people on their own," says Alex Jang, a consultant in his early 20s who's living with his parents, grandparents, girlfriend and dogs in Orinda, California.

But there's a host of unforeseen consequences that come with moving back in with parents, young people say.

  • Kegan Zimmerman, a junior at the University of Minnesota who lived with his family for a couple of months early in the pandemic, says he had to boot his younger brothers off the WiFi to take Zoom classes.
  • "There was also an issue of feeling like you lose a piece of your personality or character," he says. "While moving back home during the pandemic makes sense and is seen as socially acceptable or even smart, it also means you are living with people who still see you as your 18-year-old self."

And for those in their late 20s, who likely had been living on their own for years, returning home can be even more painful. "It’s much harder, and it feels like much more of a retreat," Arnett says.

There are silver linings, one father tells me:

"I'm a dad who is happy to have his daughter and fiancé living with me. They pay the utilities and make me nice meals, and it makes it a lot less lonely here. ... I like the multi-generational thing. I know it won't last forever, but it makes life better for now."
— Robert Legge of Culpeper, Virginia

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