Forget buying a home — even renting a room is out of reach to many young people, especially in big cities. Wages have stagnated but rents haven't, meaning workers just out of college are in a bind: To live where the jobs are, they need help.
For almost half of them, though they don't often admit it, that help comes from their parents.
According to an Institute for Social Research Transition into Adulthood study whose results were analyzed by assistant professor Patrick Wightman and written about in The New York Times, about 40 percent of 22-, 23- and 24-year-olds get significant assistance from their parents, much of which goes towards housing and start-up capital.
The average amount they receive per year comes to $3,000.
The rising cost of living over the past couple of decades, coupled with the fact that salaries haven't kept pace, has made it harder for all young workers to become independent, according to the Times: "In the 1980s, Mr. Wightman found, fewer than half of this age group received any parental support. But by 2010 nearly 70 percent of them did."
Certain kinds of young workers are more likely to receive subsidies from the older generation, like aspiring artists. They get the most help, too: 53 percent of them pay rent with their parents' assistance.
Blue-collar workers get the least help, specifically "people who work in farming, construction, retail and personal services," the Times reports.
The Times also finds that young people in big cities especially lean on their parents: They take in an average of $3,500 a year.
While some aspects of the data seem to support negative stereotypes of millennials, other aspects upend stereotypes altogether. For example, it's not just artists who get allowances well into their twenties; a whopping 47 percent of STEM workers do too.
In fact, twenty-somethings in STEM fields are the second most likely group to receive support after people pursuing careers in arts and design. Perhaps they are taking Tim Cook's advice to heart and holding out for jobs that are lucrative as well as meaningful.
Why do parents continue helping children into their early twenties or beyond? It seems to be, largely, because they can.
Along with other researchers from the University of Michigan, Wightman analyzed decades of data to put together a brief in 2013 called "Historical Trends in Parental Financial Support of Young Adults." They point out that support varies significantly by race and class. Rich parents give grown children six times more than poor ones, and, a 1990 study found, white twenty-somethings were more than twice as likely to get help as their black peers.
The researchers don't conclude whether subsidies allow certain young adults to follow their passions and seek fulfilling careers, rather than taking whatever job comes along. But they do suggest an explanation for how landlords in cities like New York can get away with charging so much for apartments: Because parents elsewhere are footing the bill.