ANDREW, an unemployed graduate in religious studies and creative writing, lives in Oregon with his parents. He is not alone. Some 21.6 million Americans aged 18 to 31 -- 36 per cent of the total -- still languish in the parental home, according to the Pew Research Center, a think-tank. This figure is slightly misleading; it includes students, who may live at home only during the holidays. Nonetheless, the share of youngsters stuck with Mom and Pop is the largest since surveys began in 1968.
Andrew hates his situation with "an intense passion." It is safe and dry and warm, of course, and he appreciates his parents' help. But he is bored and frustrated, and his love life has become "limited" since he moved back in with them. (The fact his mother won't let him cook makes preparing romantic meals for two a challenge.)
As for Mom and Pop, they are not complaining. But parents are often irked when their adult children boomerang back. Few would go as far as the parents in the 2006 movie Failure to Launch, who hired Sarah Jessica Parker to pretend to fall in love with their 35-year-old son to spur him to move out. But many wonder what it would take to prod the darling lump on the sofa to get a life.
Getting a job would be the obvious first step, but this is tough. Some 16 per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds are unemployed. Evan Feinberg, the head of Generation Opportunity, a youth advocacy organization, complains that "young people don't have the chance to achieve the American dream."
That is an exaggeration, but youngsters would be wise to polish the way they appear online. Rather than interviewing lots of candidates, companies increasingly screen students to identify, and then contact, the ones who seem most employable, says Cliff Dank, the head of Elm Talent, a recruitment agency. Those who cannot find work should consider listing their skills and qualifications on social media sites, he says. Sprinkling in a few keywords employers like, such as "leadership," may also help.
If a boomerang child needs an extra nudge to budge, you can always charge him rent. In a recent survey, 88 per cent of oldies thought kids should pay up. You can also demand he do more household chores, though that may be a recipe for burned meatloaf and shrunken shirts. Many parents, however, let their adult offspring lodge with them on easy terms. In a way, this makes financial sense. Mortgages are tougher to obtain than they were before the crash. Ill-paid youngsters can save enough for a deposit on a new home more quickly if they are not paying rent today.
Many young Americans reside with their parents because they aren't married. Only 25 per cent of 18- to 31-year-olds had spouses in 2012, down from 30 per cent in 2007. Young men are often considered unmarriageable if they still live at home, says Mark Regnerus, a sociologist from the University of Texas and co-author of Premarital Sex in America. Boomerangs still want to have sex, but both they and their parents are likely to feel awkward about them doing it under the parental roof, says Regnerus.
In the end, it may be lust, rather than lectures from Mom and Dad, that propels them out into the world.