Readfield, Wisc., resident Nikki Johnson lived at home with her parents while she attended college, but hoped to get her own apartment last spring after she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.
In this job market, however, that's not an option.
Johnson, 22, who received a bachelor degree in elementary education, continues to live with her mom and dad while she searches for full-time work. She serves as a substitute teacher in the New London School District and has filled some long-term vacancies, but while school administrators tell her she's doing well, she has not received any full-time job offers.
"I go home every night and look at (career) websites," said Johnson, who has applied for about 15 teaching jobs in the past three weeks within a one-hour radius of her parents' home. "If there's a job, I apply for it."
Her mother, Lori Johnson, said she and her husband considered helping her daughter pay for an apartment, but decided it was easier to let her daughter continue to live rent-free at home. It's an offer they've made to all of their children, she said.
"I said, 'You can't live here forever,'" Johnson's mother said. "But I'd prefer they stay home until they really get settled. Then when they're gone, they won't come back."
Legions of parents of today's twentysomethings are helping their children adjust from adolescence to adulthood because the recession has left many young adults unemployed or underemployed and sent many back to school. The increase in financial support from parents is a phenomenon that researchers across the country have been studying.
Sociologist Brent Berry of the University of Toronto in Canada has studied household changes and recessions over the past 40 years and found that the recessionary years 2007-09 and 1980-82 "really stand out in terms of adult children delaying their departure from their parents' home." His study found that more young people left during "non-recessionary periods," in the 1990s and 2002-06.
Many baby boomer parents are giving money now so that their kids' transitions from adolescence to adulthood aren't more difficult than they have to be, said sociologist Teresa Swartz of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who has also studied parental giving.
"They're saying, 'I have this money now, and why shall I wait until I die before I pass it along to them? They could use it now.'"
Megan Porter, 24, and her sister Courtney Porter, 23, have both been going to school and working part time since they were 16. They're not slackers, notes their father, Frank Porter, 52, of Richwood, N.J., who is paying for both daughters' college educations, including tuition and books.
He lets his daughters live rent-free in a house he owns in Bergenfield, N.J., and he pays for car insurance, repairs and gas for each.
"I want to take care of my children," said Porter, a self-employed landscaping and remodeling contractor. "I want to give them as best of a head start as I can."
Sally Koslow of New York City, who interviewed more than 150 parents of young adults ages 22-35 for her book "Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations From the Not-So-Empty Nest," said the recession is a "dark presence in this whole equation."
"I feel that boomer parents do feel a bit guilty if they can't help their children as much as they wish they could," she said.
Studies show young adults feel emotionally closer to parents who help them financially, according to sociologist Monica Johnson of Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., whos analyzed of data from more than 11,000 young adults age 18 to 34.
"The increase in closeness to parents happened more when there was more money transferred," said Johnson, who added that to young adults, a parent's financial help represents "a sort of continual reassurance during a period of uncertainty to have that ongoing, 'I'm not totally on my own.'"
Courtney Porter, a sophomore majoring in nursing at Felician College in New Jersey who also works part time as an independent beauty consultant, said her father's financial support has made a big difference.
"He's been helping us out to get our education and start our careers so we wouldn't end up as many students do these days, with astronomical amounts of loans," she says.
-- Post-Crescent staff writer Megan Nicolai contributed to this report.
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