As marriage wanes and house prices rise, young people stay at home

Damon Bird and Rebakah Shanks live with Mr Bird's parents as they save to build a home on a rural block they have purchased.
Damon Bird and Rebakah Shanks live with Mr Bird's parents as they save to build a home on a rural block they have purchased. Photo: Scott McNaughton

At 22, Rebekah Shanks was ready to leave the family home, yet, like many young people, she was also conscious of how hard it is to save for your own home while living independently.

The solution: moving in with the parents of her boyfriend, Damon Bird.

"It was a family decision I made, with my mum and my step-dad, to stay at home while I finished my degree; a money decision, to help save for a house," says Ms Shanks, now 25.

"Then it got to the point where I needed to spread my wings a little bit, so I moved in with my boyfriend and his parents. I got to spread my wings, and we'd be together, and we'd still have a soft place to fall."

Having lived with her partner's parents for two years and counting, the couple have managed to save enough to buy a block of land in regional Victoria, to which they intend to move. They are saving to build a house.

Ms Shanks, who was a law student but now runs a store selling hand-made goods (with plans to open a second), says the interim housing arrangement works extremely well.

"We have stimulating conversations and debates, but I think that's a healthy thing; I think we help keep them young and they help us to mature."

Now both 25, they are among an increasing number of young Australians who live with parents into their twenties, according to new research from the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Fresh figures released by the institute show 43 per cent of people aged 20 to 24 were living in the family home in 2016, up from 36 per cent in 1981. The proportion of 25 to 29-year-olds remaining at home has also risen, from 10 per cent in 1981 to 17 per cent in 2016.


Young people in Australian capital cities are more likely to remain in the family home than their regional counterparts, and young men are more likely to remain home into their twenties than young women.

But the trend towards young women delaying moving out is growing faster than that for young men, possibly because marriage is also happening later for many young people who choose to do it, the researchers speculate.

According to Anne Hollonds, the institute's director, in 2016, 50 per cent of young men and 43 per cent of young women in our capital cities lived at home, compared with 42 per cent of young men and 31 per cent of young women in regional areas.

She puts the increase in the time spent in the family home generally down to "a range of factors including the cost of housing in capital cities and time spent in higher education", which are two of the 'big four' reasons young people delay moving out.

"Both the cost of housing and time spent in education have gone up, but what's gone down is security of employment for young adults. Employment for them is less secure even if they do have higher education.

"The other factor is that we're delaying partnering; typically people set up their own place when they settle down into a relationship. That's being delayed to closer to 30 now, during your twenties you're not necessarily even looking for that relationship."

Institute researcher Lixia Qu confirmed the impact of later marriage on young-adults' choice to stay home: "One of the factors is likely to be that fewer of today's young women leave the family home to get married as was once more common."

An update of Australian marriage statistics by the institute found despite the fact that the Australian population doubled since the early 1970s, there were fewer marriages in 2017 than in 1970.

There were 116,066 marriages in 1970, and only 112,954 in 2017. Since 1970, the marriage rate has fallen steadily, hitting its lowest point in 2017, of 4.6 marriages per 1000 Australian residents.

Cultural factors were also influencing the trend towards young adults staying home. "Those with Asian, Middle-Eastern, African or southern and eastern European ancestry are more likely to live with their parents than those with Australian, north-western European or New Zealand backgrounds," said Ms Qu.