Majority of Americans Say Parents Are Doing Too Much for Their Young Adult Children

(U.S.) – A new report from the Pew Research Center suggests parents are doing too much for their young adult children.

Young men are taking longer to reach financial independence, as young women have gained ground

Most Americans (64%) think young adults should be financially independent from their parents by the time they are 22 years old, according to a new Pew Research Center study. However, this is not the reality for most young adults in their early 20s. Only 24% of adults ages 18 to 22 were “financially independent” in 2018 – an assessment based on their annual income. That share is down from 32% in 1980.

Beyond financial independence, the pace with which young adults are reaching other markers of adulthood has slowed significantly over the past several decades. According to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data, today’s young adults are staying in school longer and are marrying and establishing their own households later than previous generations. A growing share are living in their parents’ homes well into their 20s and even early 30s. Some of these changes are linked to economic challenges, while others may represent a realignment of goals and priorities.

According to the information issued in a press release from the Pew Research Center, the new survey findings underscore the extent to which many young adults are financially reliant on their parents. Some 45% of adults ages 18 to 29 (with at least one living parent) say they have received a lot of or some financial help from their parents in the past 12 months. According to parents of young adults, those shares may be even higher: About six-in-ten parents with children ages 18 to 29 (59%) say they have given their kids at least some financial help in the past year.

Among young adults who have received at least a little financial help from their parents in the past 12 months, 60% say some of the money went toward household expenses such as groceries or bills, and significant shares used it to pay their tuition, rent or mortgage.

A majority of Americans (55%) say parents are doing too much for their young adult children these days; 34% say parents are doing about the right amount and 10% say they are doing too little.

The study is based on two nationally representative surveys. The first survey of 9,834 adults was conducted online from June 25 to July 8, 2019. The second survey of 1,015 adults was conducted on the telephone on June 25-30, 2019.

Other findings in this report include:

Most parents with children ages 18 to 29 say, in general, parents are doing too much for their young adult children, but only 28% say they themselves do too much. For their part, young adults are content with the amount of help they receive from their parents – 65% say their parents do about the right amount for them, only 18% say their parents do too much.


Young adults ages 18 to 22 – many of whom are likely still enrolled in college, or even high school – are much more likely than their counterparts ages 23 to 29 to say they received financial help from their parents. Among those ages 18 to 22, most say they received a lot of (37%) or some (26%) financial help from their parents in the past year. By comparison, only about a third of those ages 23 to 29 say they received this much support (16% say a lot, 18% say some).


High-income parents are more likely than those in lower income groups to say the financial help they gave was related to education. Among parents who gave their adult children financial help in the past year, two-thirds in households earning $100,000 or more a year say the money was tied to educational expenses, compared with 53% of parents with incomes between $75,000 and $99,999, and fewer than half of those earning less than $75,000.


Half of young adults say they rely on their parents at least some for emotional support. One-in-five say they rely on their parents a lot and 30% say they rely on them some. A much higher share of parents of young adult children (77%) say their children rely on them a lot or some for emotional support.


The share of men ages 18 to 29 who are financially independent has fallen since 1980 – from 63% then to 52% in 2018. (The share had gotten as low as 45% in 2010, in the wake of the Great Recession, but has rebounded since then.) The trend has gone in the opposite direction for young women. While 38% of young women were financially independent in 1980, 42% are today.


Generally, enrollment in high school or college has steadily increased since the 1980s, with enrollments peaking in 2010. Young women in particular have made gains in higher education. In 2017, 44% of women ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in college, up from 25% in 1980. Gains in college enrollment have been more modest among young men – 37% of men ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in college in 2017, compared with 26% in 1980.


Young men, especially those without a college degree, are more likely than young women to live with their parents. In 1980, 14% of men and 8% of women ages 25 to 29 lived in their parents’ home. Over the course of the last 40 years, these shares have increased significantly. In 2018, 27% of men in this age group and 17% of women lived with their parents.


Marriage rates for young adults have steadily declined over the past 40 years. In 1980, 42% of all young adults ages 18 to 29 were married, compared with only 18% in 2018. Being unmarried may lead to stronger financial ties between young adults and their parents.

The margin of sampling error for the full sample of 9,834 respondents is plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

Read the report:


Survey Topline:

For more information or to arrange an interview with an expert, contact Tanya Arditi at 202.419.3623, or email

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