The percentage of young adults living at home with their parents last year reached its highest level in at least four decades, according to a study released Thursday.
The Pew Research Center study found that a record 21.6 million young adults -- defined as 18- to 31-year-olds -- were living in their parents' home in 2012. That 36 percent was 4 percentage points higher than those in that age range who were living with their parents in 2007, before the start of the recession, and tops the 34 percent when the recession officially ended in 2009, the report said.
"Since 2007, young adults have grown increasingly likely to live at home," the report said. "This is a new trend."
The report analyzed comparable census data going back to 1968, finding that in that year, 32 percent of 18- to 31-year-olds lived at home, a number that held steady for 30 years. In 1981, the number was 31 percent, and in 2007 it was 32 percent, the study said.
"Why is it more young adults are living with mom and/or father?" said the report's author, Richard Fry, in an interview Thursday. "My response would be, at least through 2012, the share of young adults that had jobs had not markedly increased, at least nationally."
Sixty-three percent of young adults had jobs in 2012, down from 70 percent in 2007, he said.
Lack of jobs, a decline in the marriage rate and an increase in college enrollment -- young adults living in college dormitories are counted as living with their parents since most are presumed to be financially dependent on them, Fry said -- combined to boost the percentage of young adults living at home, the study said.
"But it's clear other factors are at work," Fry said, though he doesn't have the data to pinpoint those specifically.
Susanne Bleiberg Seperson, director of Dowling College's Center for Intergenerational Policy and Practice, said of the report's findings: "The short version is it's the economy. There are no jobs."
Seperson said in a phone interview, "Students can't afford to live on their own when they graduate college. . . . They're getting stuck in time, held back from moving forward."
Carl Potak, 28, of Roslyn Heights, is among them. He returned to his parents' home after graduating from Binghamton University in 2008.
For the past year he has been employed as a recruiter for an international information technology firm's Long Island branch. Other jobs before that were low-paying, part-time or temporary, leaving him to scramble to pay health insurance that he said cost more than $500 a month.
"All my money was pretty much going towards health insurance, keeping myself afloat and slowly trying to pay off my credit cards," Potak said. "It wasn't until I became an IT recruiter that I got out of debt and started to make a real living wage."
Potak, vice president of the Nassau County Young Democrats, said the region needs more affordable housing for young people like him.
"More people in my age bracket are living on Long Island with their families because they can't afford to move out," he said.
Kevin Law, president and chief operating officer of the Long Island Association, the region's largest business group, said, "You don't need to be an economist to realize that high student debt levels, a high unemployment rate -- what has been high and has now gone down -- high cost of housing and short supply of rental units is a perfect recipe that requires more young people to be living at home with their folks."
36% of young adults (ages 18-31) lived with their parents in 2012 (21.6 million out of 59.3 million)
32% of young adults (ages 18-31) lived with their parents
in 2007 (18.5 million out of 56.95 million)
63% percentage of young adults employed, 2012
70% percentage of young adults employed, 2007
Source: Pew Research Center