Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Boomerangs and Barnacles: 5 million adult children living at Home.

Boomerangs and Barnacles: 5 million adult children living at Home.

  • 16.9 million families in England and Wales in 2021, up from 15.8 million a decade earlier.
  • Eight million families had adult children living with their parents. That’s one in every 4.5 (22.4%) – up from one in five (21.2%) ten years earlier.
  • The number of adult children living with their parents increased by 14.7% – from 4.2 million in 2011 to 4.9 million in 2021.
  • The average (median) age of adult children living with their parents was 24 years.
  • More than 1 in 10 (11.6%) of those aged 30 to 34 years were living with their parents – up from 8.6% in a decade.
  • Adult men living with parents outnumbered women at a ratio of about 3 to 2.

According to Hargreaves Lansdown, 5 million ‘adult children’ are living at home, which are numbers based on a 2021 Census Report. I wouldn’t be surprised if this number is higher. Whether you haven’t been able to move out of home or if you have had to move back. We are in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, and sometimes it makes financial sense to stay at home. One in four London families have adult children at home, and many are living as unpaid carers. Whatever your circumstances, there are also benefits to all living together – not all financial. Have a read below and let me know your thoughts…

More adults living with their parents

More families in England and Wales had ‘adult children’ living with them reported in Census 2021 compared with a decade earlier. Most people in their early 20s lived with their parents, as children stay in the family home later in life.

The total number of adult children living with their parents increased by 14.7% in the same period from around 4.2 million in the 2011 Census to around 4.9 million in Census 2021.

In this article, the term “adult children” refers to everyone considered a “non-dependent child”.

This term refers to a person aged over 18 years who is living with their parent(s) and does not have a spouse, partner or child living with them. It also includes anyone aged 16 to 18 years who is not in full-time education and does not have a spouse, child or partner living with them.

One in four London families had adult children in the home

More than one in four (26.8%) London families had at least one adult child in the home, the largest proportion of any English region. The smallest number was in the South West at around one in five (19.3%) families. In Wales, 23.2% of families had at least one adult child.

Six of the ten local authorities with the highest proportion of families with adult children were in London. The highest was in Brent, where almost one in three (32.4%) families had adult children living with them.

Other areas where families with adult children were most common include Leicester (30.4%), Knowsley (30.2%) and Birmingham (29.9%).

The lowest proportions were in Rutland (16.4%), Cotswold (16.9%) and Rushcliffe (16.9%). Cities in England and Wales with some of the lowest proportions of families with adult children include Cambridge (17.2%) and Winchester (17.3%).

Living at Home.

Females are more likely to be at-home carers.

In some cases, adult children live at home to care for a parent. They’re more likely to provide unpaid care than average – at 28.8% compared to 9.7% overall. However, this is down from 31% a decade earlier. So it isn’t what’s driving the increase in the number of adult children living at home.

Female adult children were more likely to be carers in every family type compared with male adult children. Female adult children are more likely to be unpaid carers. In Census 2021, one in three (33.0%) female adult children said they were providing unpaid care. Compared with 26.6% of male adult children. Adult children in lone-parent families were more likely to be carers compared with those in couple families (32.1% and 19.3%, respectively).

Sarah Coles, head of personal finance, Hargreaves Lansdown:

“Almost five million adult children are boomerangs or barnacles – either returning home after studying or never moving out at all. Some are students, others are carers, and some can’t find work. However, a huge number are employed and keen to move out – they can’t afford to. And while this can make life a difficult compromise all around, it can devastate parental finances.

Most people in their early 20s were still living with their parents in 2021 – at 51.2%. This was up from 44.5% a decade earlier. However, the number of adult offspring living at home at every age has grown, so more than one in four in their mid-to-late 20s still lives at home (26.7%) and more than one in ten in those in their early 30s.

Girl living at home

Why are so many people living at home?

Naturally, these numbers include an awful lot of students. Even when just looking at those aged 22 and over. The numbers include a far larger proportion of students than the rest of the population. Choosing to live at home while studying could have been a pandemic-related decision in March 2021. It’s also likely to owe something to the burden of student loans. As well as those people who feel they cannot afford the cost of living away from home.

In a huge number of cases, it comes down to the fact they can’t afford a place of their own.

Many people are more likely to live with their parents in areas without affordable property. It’s one reason why the average adult child living at home in London is 25. A year older than the average – and in some boroughs, it’s up to 26.

In the North East, where property is most affordable (at 4.9 times average earnings). The proportion of adult children living with their parents has risen more slowly than anywhere else in the UK – up just 0.5% in a decade.

Some of those who can’t afford a place of their own will be out of work. 8.2% of adult children living at home, aged 22 or over, are unemployed, compared to 3.7% among the general population. In London, this rose to 10.4%. However, 72.7% of this group are employed, and 49.6% are working full-time. So millions of working people still can’t afford to make the move.

Living at Home

What can you do if you are parents?

Living at home can profoundly impact parents’ finances. Whether you cover all the costs of having your children at home – including higher energy and food bills- or cover incidental spending, The costs can add up. So it’s important to look at how you can support your children and yourselves at the same time.

Discuss your expectations and responsibilities.

If your children are still living at home, or you think they’re likely to be in the future. Some approaches can help with costs.

Once they’re adults, it needs to be clear from the outset that your expectations are different from when they were growing up. They need to pull their weight both financially and around the house. It’s worth having a conversation so that they understand their new responsibilities in the home.

Don’t ignore your retirement plans.

An empty nest offers the chance to supercharge your future savings. If the nest remains overcrowded or people choose to live at home. It’s important not to overlook boosting your pension. Otherwise, you may end up with a hole in your retirement plans. Make sure you don’t neglect your own needs. You may need to cover costs to support your family now, so look at how to plug the gap later.

Agree on a nominal rent/bills.

If a family member has chosen to move back home. Once they have had a few months to get back on their feet, you can discuss charging a nominal rent to cover their share of the bills. This will put you on a firmer financial footing. You can then gradually increase this towards the kind of money they’d pay for a room in a shared house over time. This will help make the transition from home more manageable because they’re used to having to budget. They may not be entitled to benefits if they are in the family home, so work out what is affordable for you all. If they are saving for a deposit to rent or buy, then work out a way in which they can save but also contribute towards their time at home.

Put some money aside each month.

Hargreaves Lansdown suggested putting their rent money into a competitive, easy-access savings account to create a nest egg. This gives you a chance to help your child move out of the home, helping to pay for the security deposit and the first month’s rent. Depending on the size of the nest egg. You could even help them with the deposit on a home of their own. Ideally, your offspring shouldn’t know this is coming, or they may refuse to pay rent as it’s ‘their money’ anyway. I would argue that you should only do this if this is an affordable option and this is a personal choice. It’s important to support your children and help them become independent.

Nobody is pretending this is easy, and there may well be rows along the way. However, before you get into an argument. It’s always worth checking whether your expectations are fair because life has changed dramatically in the past generation. The figures reveal just how incredibly difficult it is to take this step now.” 


What can you do if you’re living at home?

Whether you haven’t moved out of your family home or moved back after University, a relationship split or a job loss. Whether you have moved back home to save up for your own house or to get through this cost of living crisis. Use this time to build yourself up financially and enjoy your time with your family.

It’s important to communicate with your family, be considerate of each other’s needs and enjoy your time together. Living at home, you are around people who love you.

Work out your contributions towards rent and bills.

Work out with your family how much you can pay towards rent or at least bills if you are able to. It’s important to contribute whilst also having money for yourself. With the cost of living increasing, pressures are on everyone, including your family. Discuss your financial situation with your family if you are not earning. Don’t let resentment start to build up. Work out a way in which you can all benefit from living at home together.

Agree on some ground rules for living at home.

You may miss some freedoms of being at home. It’s important to lead your own lives but be respectful towards one another. Also, set some time to do some things together. You are not a lodger. You are family.

Automate your savings.

Set up a high-interest savings account to start accumulating an emergency fund if you are working. It’s important to start building up some money for yourself and contribute where possible. I have everything automated for payday, so I don’t see this money. Even if you save £25 a week, that’s £1,300 a year! That’s how I first started saving. It’s amazing how much this can build up over time.

Top Tips Header

Top Tips for Living at Home.

I saw this story come through from Hargreaves Lansdown and wanted to share my own thoughts. I left home and went straight to university. Returning home for a year after a job redundancy was quite an experience for me. It’s not easy being fiercely independent than having to change your life completely. It will involve compromises and sometimes many honest discussions. It’s not just you making adjustments. Your family are also used to not having you at home and will have their own routines and habits. However, there are also benefits to being at home, and you get to spend time with your family. You will never get this time back, so enjoy this time together!

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The ONS has released Census data on families: Families in England and Wales – Office for National Statistics (

And an article on more adult children living with parents: More adults living with their parents – Office for National Statistics (