One of the most memorable Saturday Night Live sketches ever was broadcast in 1986 when guest host William Shatner played himself appearing at fictional Star Trek convention. After fielding one childish question after another from costumed fans in their late 20s and 30s, Shatner loses his cool and shouts: "GET A LIFE, will you people? I mean, for crying out loud, it's just a TV show! ... Move out of your parents' basements! Get your own apartments and GROW THE HELL UP!"
Thirty-one years later, it sure seems like all of America needs to heed that message. Here's why: The Census Bureau now says that more 18-34 year-olds are living with their parents than with a spouse.
This is the scariest economic indicator in America... even though its primary cause has very little to do with economics.
First, let's not pretend that today's millennials don't have serious economic challenges previous generations didn't. The biggest challenge is student loans. The cost of college tuition and fees has soared 63 percent just since 2006 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
U.S. student loan debt has ballooned to $1.4 trillion today. With almost any other commodity, higher prices would serve as a curb on demand. But because of our government-backed student loan system, demand for higher education in America doesn't seem to have any price ceiling.
Swallowing massive debt obligations still isn't enough of a deterrent to the market. The result is we have millions of young Americans straddled with such massive student loan debt that paying the rent or the mortgage is impossible for too many of them.
And it's also become costlier to rent and buy a home in America. Those costs have been ticking up since 2014, after a brief hiatus due to the Great Recession.
So there are definitely some legitimate economic reasons for many young adults to be living at home. Considering the unique challenges they face, you'd expect those young adults to be disappointed in their relative lack of financial and actual independence, right? I mean, it's not all that fun to be economically forced to live with your parents, right?
Wrong. It turns out we have two pieces of important data that prove this is a societal failing that's affecting the economy and not the other way around. First, a 2015 Pew Research Center analysis shows that as the economy improved coming out of the Great Recession, even more millennials were living with their parents. A better economy with more employment and higher wages isn't reversing this trend.