California Imitates France as Middle-Aged Move in with Parents

The Los Angeles Times ran an article Monday called “Moving in with Parents Becomes More Common for the Middle-aged" that seems to knock off a February story in the French magazine Le Monde called “Meet France's Boomerang Kids, Moving Back In With Parents At Middle Age.” 

The Times, in typical liberal fashion, joins Le Monde in blaming the parents being forced to move in with grandparents on the “grim economic aftermath of the Great Recession.” But the real culprit for both locations is that liberal social welfare states impoverish middle-class adults, who are thus forced in middle age to move back in with their parents. 

The social welfare state by its definition destroys work incentives through high taxes and strict regulations. French and California ruling-class politicians believe they are better at administering the economy than is business. Politicians talk up their successes – like highly subsidized Tesla Motors – but the results are usually more like Solyndra’s bankruptcy. 

Le Monde magazine tells the story of Catherine, a 47-year-old nurse who is staying in a small bedroom in her 72-year-old father’s apartment. She keeps her living arrangement a secret. “Nobody knows because I’m ashamed of living here at my age,” she says. It is common for struggling post-education youth who are trying to find jobs in France to return to their family homes for a short while. But grey-haired “boomerang kids” in their 40s are also making their way back to the family nest, after years of independence.

The French National Institute of Population Studies found that 4.4% of 40-year-old men and 3.2% of 50-year-old men live with their parents. For women, the numbers are 2.4% of 40-years-olds and 1.9% of 50-year-olds. The real number would be significantly higher, but many are ashamed to admit they are shacking up with parents. 

The Fondation Abbé Pierre, a French organization for the housing of disadvantaged people, estimates there are 280,000 people in Paris over age 25 who are no longer students or recent graduates and are being forced to return to their parents’ or grandparents’ homes each year because they cannot afford to live on their own. For France, an entire age group, one which used to be considered safe, has now become vulnerable.

“It’s harder than we thought,” says Jean-Bernard, who has sheltered a 35-year-old unemployed son in his childhood bedroom since November. A former metalworking technician, the retired 64-year-old and his wife are happy to help but fear their son could lose his ambition. “We are both reassured to see him with us at home because he wouldn’t be able to live in a dignified way with his benefits, but at the same time we are scared he might lose the habit of sorting things out alone,” admits Jean.

Retired parents often have trouble living with the loss of the autonomy they gain when a child leaves home. Many of these parents are still relatively young and active and want to enjoy everyday life unencumbered. But their middle-age children also suffer from loss of pride and confidence. “Since I came back to my mother’s, I’ve been finding it more and more difficult to hear her asking about my schedule, insisting that I wrap up warm, have another serving of food,” says Agnès, a 53-year-old part-time singing teacher. “My 82-year-old mother has trouble understanding I’m not a little girl anymore.”

Catherine, the 47-year-old, has found herself in an equally regressive circumstance. “The normal situation is to live at your own place and visit your parents from time to time,” she says, “not to have dinner every evening with your 72-year-old father.”

The LA Times’ story featured names like Debbie and Ron, but the situations were very similar to Catherine and Jean's. High taxes, strict regulations, no opportunities, and living with your parents: we are all French now.

The author welcomes feedback and will respond to comments by readers.


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