Close friends since high school, Samantha Scholtz and Liz Martin launched into the world in impressive ways.
Scholtz, 22, graduated from the University of Iowa with a human physiology major and is applying to physical therapy programs.
Martin, 22, graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in science business and is considering medical school.
Competent and engaging, the young women are back in the Twin Cities area with something else in common. Both are living at home with their parents.
Turns out they have lots of company.
While few flinch when hearing about millennial men sleeping in the basement bedroom as they figure out their next move, this quieter trend is causing head-turning among number-crunchers who assumed that today’s career-focused women head out the door and never look back.
In fact, the Pew Research Center reports that 36.4 percent of women ages 18 to 34 are living with their families — the largest number since the 1940s.
“The numbers rose during the recession and are rising during the recovery,” said Pew researcher Richard Fry. “I thought things were going to change as the overall economy recovered, but even greater numbers of young women are living with their parents today.”
Reasons are many, he said, including significant delays in marriage — women today are half as likely to be married as their counterparts in 1940 — as well as daunting student loan debt and an economy that hasn’t fully rebounded.
Add to that a unique closeness with Mom and Dad, and pull up another chair at the dinner table.
“I was pretty hesitant at first,” said Scholtz, of Eden Prairie. “It was never my plan to move home. But now I don’t see it as a bad thing at all.
“It’s a smart thing. You’re saving money and grounding yourself for the future. Four years of school isn’t enough to do that anymore.”
Martin agrees, noting that “our entire friend group, both men and women, is living with their parents.”
Martin is using the welcome break from rent and groceries to take two science classes at the University of Minnesota (she’s paying for them herself) and saving money while working at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis as a medical scribe.
“I thought I’d be going to medical school right after college,” said Martin, also of Eden Prairie. “But now it’s really common to take a gap year to decide if this is the path you want to follow.”
Both women hope to be living on their own by next summer.
A look back
In 1940, more than 36 percent of young women lived with their parents or relatives, typically moving out only when they married, Fry said. Over the next few decades, women joined the workforce in larger numbers, able to support themselves.
From 1960 to 2000, young adults marched home in modestly increasing numbers. Then, boom! The Great Recession of 2008 hit. Jobs grew scarce. Graduate programs got increasingly competitive. The costs of rent and groceries soared.
Moving home, while embarrassing for some, became a necessity.
“The job market could continue to improve,” Fry said. “But it hasn’t made a dent yet. Will a better job market do the trick? I don’t know.”
What he does know is that with so many young people returning to the nest, the stigma of such an arrangement is rapidly diminishing. He also knows that living under one roof again is more pleasing than modern parents or emerging-adult children want to admit too loudly.
Seventy-eight percent of returnees to the nest report satisfaction with their living arrangements, Fry said. Nearly half pay rent and 89 percent say they help with household expenses. Most say that their relationship with their parents has remained good, or even improved.
And then there’s other stuff.
“I love my mom’s cooking more than anything,” Scholtz said.
“They say, ‘It’s so nice having you back here,’ ” added Martin, whose childhood bedroom has been refurnished and repainted. “I didn’t come home much in college. We have adult conversations. I really enjoy my time with them.”
Still, the young women say they’ve needed to renegotiate roles and expectations.
“I’m an adult, and I want to be responsible for myself,” said Scholtz, noting that her mom sometimes does her laundry along with the rest of the family’s.
“When you live in an apartment, you clean it and do your own cooking. I was worried that by moving home, my parents would take care of that stuff without asking me. We’ve had discussions where I’ve said, ‘You’re kind of treating me like I’m in high school again.’ But me and my parents are very close. Now they’re my roommates.”
Time is precious
Deborah Tannen isn’t surprised by that sentiment. Of the women she interviewed for her book, “You’re Wearing That? Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation,” she said, “The vast majority told me they had a much better relationship with their daughters than they had with their own mothers. They used the magic word: close.
“They tell each other what’s on their minds, confide in each other and tell each other what’s going on.”
That closeness could become problematic, she noted, if a once independent daughter returns to her childhood bedroom.
“The mother says, ‘You’re not eating right; don’t stay out late,’ which she sees as caring, and the daughter sees as being criticized. She might think, ‘I’m an adult now. I can take care of myself.’ The solution, to the extent that there is one, is for mothers to try to bite their tongue as much as possible, and daughters to try to be less sensitive.”
If things go south? “Talk about it and come up with a plan,” Tannen said. “If it’s just getting on each other’s nerves, maybe you see each other less.”
A little gratitude on both ends goes a long way, too.
“Hang in there,” Martin advised. “It’s really only temporary, and you’re saving money. Enjoy it, because time with your parents is precious at this point.”