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The pandemic prompted them to return home – now they remain

Megan Rainer was living alone in a small studio in Portland, Oregon when the pandemic struck. Working the night shift in TV news makes it difficult to find friends. After her work became virtual because of Kovid, she rarely left her apartment, sharpening her sense of isolation.

Ms. Riner, 25, decided to leave Portland in July and move back to her old bedroom at her mother’s home in her hometown of Indianapolis. This decision shocked her: All she wanted after college was to leave Indianapolis and start an independent life.

More than nine months later, she works in digital media at a nearby call center. She has just moved from her mother’s home to her own apartment, less than a kilometer away, in a building where a good friend from primary school lives. She prefers to stay in Indianapolis, rather than resume her old life in Portland, sitting in this small studio, all alone.

“I feel much better just knowing I live close to friends and a support system,”

; she says.

Mrs. Riner is sitting with her mother Maureen Riner.


Anna Powell Denton for The Wall Street Journal

Young adults across the country flocked to their parents’ homes amid the pandemic. Now some are left, discovering that they like the security and benefits of living close to family – along with being in their hometowns during times of great insecurity. More than half of all people between the ages of 18 and 29 began living with their parents after coronavirus cases in the United States began to spread in early 2020, according to an analysis by the Pew Research Center of the Census Bureau’s monthly data of the population. This surpasses the previous peak during the Great Depression.

These households have accelerated since Covid, says Ashley Basile Oiken, president of Engage! Cleveland, a non-profit organization that focuses on engaging and developing careers for young adults. Two months after the pandemic, she began receiving calls from people who had moved home and were looking for a way to stay.

She says that usually such “boomerangs” – people who return to their hometowns – are in the early mid-30s. But now more people are returning at the age of 20. Get involved! Cleveland has launched a social media advertising campaign targeting young professionals in New York, Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus and Pittsburgh to lure them back to Cleveland.

It is unclear whether this jump in young adults living at home is a temporary, pandemic-induced acceleration of a trend that has already taken place – or whether it signals a lasting change in behavior, says Karen Fingerman, a professor of human development and family science. at the University of Texas, Austin. But it is clear that there has been a strengthening of family ties in the last year, she said. The influx of young people is revitalizing much smaller cities and expanding resources for growth and development.

“I feel connected to the community here,” said Alea Lafors, who moved to her mother’s home in Brooklyn, New York, in March 2020 after the pandemic interrupted her senior year at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla. , she became active in her church and volunteered for the local head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Ms. LaForce, 22, is embarking on a series of virtual internships at Washington-based organizations where she plans to live after college. But now, instead of going to DC to find a permanent job, she plans to stay and work in Brooklyn. It makes economic sense: With $ 30,000 of student debt and aspirations to work in a nonprofit or government organization, she can save money by living in her mother’s home.

Aleah LaForce moved into her mother’s home in Brooklyn, New York, in March 2020 after the pandemic interrupted her senior year at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla.


Mia Nijony McCarthy

Homecoming comes from “the need to look for ways to optimize security during uncertain times. The goal is to ensure safety and security, “said Jacqueline K. Golan, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. Moving home is a coping mechanism provoked by a biological response to the insecurity of the pandemic – a reaction to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system and the subsequent release of stress hormones.

Neil Rose, a professor of marketing at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, says the change stems from changed expectations. Instead of young adults emphasizing independence, work and mobility, they feel a new need to feel justified. “Spending less time in cars and planes and with distant acquaintances makes us rethink the balance of our lives,” he says.

Shira Olson and Scott McPhee, both 29, thought they would spend just a few weeks at Ms. Olson’s parents’ home in Cranston, RI, when they left their New York apartment in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

Eventually, they stayed in Mrs. Olson’s old bedroom for a few months, both keeping up with the work that became virtual. They had planned a big wedding in December, but instead held it until July. Then they returned to New York.

Shira Olson and Scott MacPhee, both 29, on their wedding day last July. The couple moved to Rhode Island from New York during the pandemic and decided to stay.


Nicole Marcel photography

“I was in tears, longing for home and missing my parents. All I wanted was to be close to my parents, ”says Ms. Olson. The couple lasted several months, then terminated their lease in New York and moved back to Rhode Island, where they plan to stay in their own apartment. If Mr. MacPhee’s job in educational support goes personal again, he will look for a new one nearby. “We had this moment when being close to family was so special. It’s a gift, “said Ms. Olson.

For Benjamin Becker, childcare assistance was a key reason for him to return home. The 29-year-old CEO and his wife Katie Becker made the six-hour trip from Chicago to Cleveland with their 10-day-old son in April and moved in with his wife’s parents. Now his own parents, who live nearby, and his mother-in-law share the responsibilities of caring for children.

“Having parents to help every day is a real blessing,” says Mr Becker. They knew they would eventually want to settle close to their family, but they expected to live in Chicago for at least another two to three years. They just bought a house in Cleveland.

Benjamin, Katie and Levi Becker, shown here in Naples, Florida, in February, moved from the Chicago pandemic to their hometown of Cleveland, where they have since bought a house.


Emily Parish Photography

“It suddenly became a really attractive place to walk,” said Jessica Beringer, a 33-year-old lawyer who also moved from Chicago to her home in Cleveland, where her parents and mothers-in-law live. She and her husband, their 3-year-old child , their baby, born five months before the pandemic, and their dog remained in her home from childhood for five months.

Ms. Beringer got a new job at a law firm in Cleveland in October, and they bought a house in Shaker Heights, the neighborhood where she grew up. She likes to have more space, but she misses Mom cooking dinner every night. “There’s a sense of relief now that we’re home,” she said.

Jessica and Daniel Beringer and their son Thomas moved from the Chicago home to Cleveland during the pandemic, where they both grew up.


Photo of Cathy Osgood / Little Bear

Sabrina Ahmadzai arranged jobs at pharmaceutical companies in New Jersey and central Pennsylvania in anticipation of graduating from the University of Philadelphia last spring. She lived with her parents at her childhood home nearby. When the pandemic struck, all its plans changed. Instead of doing this work, she found one near her home. She decided that her younger sister, who started high school this year, needed a home to help with the virtual school.

Her change in thinking surprised her because she usually likes to expose herself to new experiences and enjoys the change. But she says, “This is a time for precious family time.”

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How has your relationship with your family changed over the last year? Join the conversation below.

Write to Nancy Keats at nancy.keates@wsj.com

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