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Editorial: Millennials can go home again, and they can't leave

Carl Potak, 28, on his bed in the

Carl Potak, 28, on his bed in the house in which he grew up. He has lived at home since he graduated from college. (Aug. 1, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Living in your parents' basement isn't just a joke for the millennial generation. The number of young adults returning to their nests is increasing, with 36 percent of Americans aged 18 to 31 living with mom and dad last year. That's up 4 percentage points since 2007, before the Great Recession.

As a result, adulthood -- and its accompanying financial independence -- is being delayed. It's a drag on the economy, as well as on parents' pocketbooks, because it reduces millennial home ownership, which means less furniture and other goods are sold.

This generation is commonly criticized for being too soft and afraid of adulthood. Some say it's the parents' fault, the result of too much coddling. The assertions may hold some truth. But while mom's sandwiches taste great and that HBO subscription comes in handy, generally, boomeranging back home isn't anyone's first choice.

Millennial employment tumbled over the past six years. And the modest job gains made during the economic recovery have disproportionately come in low-wage sectors, such as retail and restaurants. That loss of income -- coupled with rising college enrollment, crippling debt and declining marriage rates -- is bringing young adults to a couch near you.

Young Long Islanders must also include the high cost of living in the equation. The average two-bedroom apartment in Nassau and Suffolk counties runs more than $1,600 a month. That alone makes childhood bedrooms look better. Many with jobs want to move to New York City, but good luck with that housing search. Cramming apartments full of roommates is one of the few ways to bring rents into the realm of possibility.

So don't expect millennials to move out any time soon -- or at least, not before the job market picks up. Until then, you may want to hold back on your plans to convert the guest room into an office. Or speed them up.