U.S. mobility for young adults has fallen to the lowest level in more than 50 years, as cash-strapped 20-somethings avoid buying homes, and refrain from major moves in a weak job market.
The new 2013 figures from the Census Bureau, which reversed earlier signs of recovery, underscore the impact of the sluggish economy on young people, many of them college graduates, whom demographers sometimes refer to as "Generation Wait."
"Young adulthood has grown much more complex and protracted, with a huge number struggling to reach financial independence," said Mark Mather, an associate vice president at the private Population Reference Bureau. "Many will get there, but at much later ages than we've seen in the past. More and more we're seeing many young adults routinely wait until their 30s to leave the parental nest."
Among adults ages 25-29, just 4.9 million, or 23.3 percent, moved in the 12 months ending March 2013. That's down from 24.6 percent in the same period the year before. It was the lowest level since at least 1963. The peak of 36.7 percent came in 1965, during the nation's youth counterculture movement.
The past year's decline in moving came after a modest increase from 2011 to 2012, a sign that young adults remain tentative about testing the job market in other cities.
Portland, Oregon, Austin, Texas, and Houston, Texas were among the top gainers in young adults, reflecting stronger local economies. Among college graduates 25 and older, Denver, Colorado and Washington, D.C., topped the list of destinations.
Roughly 1 in 5 young adults ages 25 to 34 is now disconnected from work and school.
The overall decline in relocations among young adults is being driven largely by a drop in local moves within a county, which fell to the lowest level on record. Out-of-state moves also fell, from 3.8 percent in 2012 to 3.4 percent, but remained higher than a 2010 low of 3.2 percent.
Young adults typically make long-distance moves to seek a new career, while those who make local moves often do so when buying a home.
While homeownership across all age groups fell by 3 percentage points to 65 percent, during the period from 2007 to 2012, the drop-off among adults 25-29 was much larger - more than 6 percentage points, from 40.6 percent to 34.3 percent. That reflects, in part, tighter lines of credit seen after the 2006 housing bust. Declines in homeownership for those ages 40 and older over in that five-year period were more modest.
The District of Columbia, with its high share of young adults, had the lowest homeownership rate across all age groups at 41.6 percent, followed by New York at 53.9 percent. West Virginia had the highest homeownership rate at 72.9 percent.