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Parental support for college students prolongs dependence

Kelly Dilworth

College students who get financial support from mom and dad may have trouble leaving the nest for good, according to a new study published in the journal Social Currents.

The study found that college students who receive financial help from their parents are more likely to continue receiving help long after graduation. Students from wealthier households are also more likely to rely on the Bank of Mom and Dad, as are students who participated in extracurricular activities.Parental support for college students prolongs their dependence

Overall, more than 41 percent of young adults between the ages of 25 and 32 still receive some financial help from their parents. But not surprisingly, the students who put themselves through school were significantly more likely to live by themselves and pay their own ways as adults. Recent grads from the most privileged backgrounds, by contrast, were much more likely to rely on their kin for help with bills, rent or other routine expenses.

Those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds were quick to achieve partial financial independence, said study author Anna Manzoni in a news release. But “those from higher socioeconomic backgrounds tended to be stuck in that state of partial independence.”

People whose parents supported them financially throughout college were also more likely to move back in with their parents.

Manzoni came to her conclusions after analyzing the responses of more than 6,400 participants in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health. She didn’t determine why students from more privileged backgrounds had lower odds of achieving full independence after college graduation. But she speculated that some former college students might choose to live with their parents rather than on their own because they feel close to them and don’t mind sharing the same roof. Others may receive more financial help from their parents because they live in the same house or in relatively close proximity.

“[T]hose from higher socioeconomic backgrounds tended to be stuck in that state of partial independence.”

It’s also possible that students from wealthier backgrounds may have acquired more expensive tastes than their starting salaries can afford. Or, they may have felt less pressured to pursue a high paying profession and may have instead chosen a more personally fulfilling but lower paying occupation.

In addition, wealthy millennials who graduated college during or shortly after the Great Recession may have had trouble securing a good job or a stable home of their own. According to a March 2015 survey from Bank of America, 43 percent of affluent young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 worried that they were going to have a harder time buying a house than their parents did at the same age. Meanwhile, 42 percent expected to have trouble saving for retirement and 39 percent worried that they wouldn’t be able to afford a more comfortable lifestyle.

The survey also found that nearly half of all parents who had opted to financially support their children as adults planned to continue supporting them for life.

Unintended consequences
That could lead to unintended consequences down the road if young adults take too long to leave the nest. According to Manzoni, supporting adult children after graduation could lead to “prolonged dependence” over time.

It could also take a hefty bite out of parents’ retirement if they focus too heavily on supporting their children instead of themselves.

See also: How to get your adult children to leave the nest

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