The Bogus Boomerang Generation

Here's a belated Mother's Day gift for some moms:

Your recent college graduate will not be schlepping back home!

Go ahead, re-purpose the extra bedroom into a gift-wrapping station/meditation cove. Your twenty-something with a double major in anthropology and medieval history (probably) will not need it anymore.

Despite the media's insistence on repeating otherwise, 85% of college grads will not be returning to the nest.  

Politifact rated that startling statistic - 85% of college grads "boomeranging" back home - a big fat lie. No surprise. It sounds utterly improbable that so many seemingly competent young men and women would return home to momma even if bribed with free wi-fi and a promise to help pay off college loans.

Yet news organizations including CNN, the New York Times, the New York Post, Time, US News and World Reports and of course HuffPo reported the utterly false figure and did so without ever citing a survey, describing any methodology, naming a researcher or most likely asking for any shred of evidence the statistic might be anything other than bogus.

Apparently no one bothered to check up on the incredibly overblown factoid for years.

Not until it popped up in a recent ad from American Crossroads, an anti-Obama group that took the bad stat as gospel truth seeing that our socialist President is responsible for all those rejected and dejected job-seekers sleeping in what was suppose to be your yoga studio. I will thank American Crossroads for their attack video that mercifully brought the falsehood to the attention of Politifact. Boomerang kids, a Crossroads ad and the media echo chamber.

The outright sham of the stat seemed to shock even Louis Jacobson who's seen his share of you-know-what at Politifact over the years. He traced the first mention of the specious figure to a 2010 CNNMoney report then, unlike many journalists, scratched beneath the surface:
If the reporters had looked deeper, they would have found some oddities about the firm that claimed to have conducted the survey, a Philadelphia-area company called Twentysomething. The company's website had an impressive list of staffers, but when we checked on them, we found several who either didn't work for the company or appeared to be fictional.

We tracked down the president of the company, David A. Morrison, in the Bahamas, where he said he "owns many homes." He said the company went out of business a few years ago and that the survey is now out of date. He answered some of our questions but then ended the call, asking us not to contact him again.
Politico managed to find his father in Jersey so it appears Morrison the Younger was not himself a Boomeranger but a member of the alleged 15%. 

There's more. Press releases "written" by people who say they didn't write them. Pictures of employees straight from stock photo sites:
The image of Deane is found on Flickr as "confident happy young African American business woman smiling" and appeared on the blogs Madame Noire, Motivators And Creators Women's Group and Tickled by Life. The photograph of Bray-Wilson has appeared on numerous sites for black women and even payday loan sites.
Come on, really, was there ever a survey?  Who paid you, Mr. Morrison? Naturally he couldn't say due to a non-disclosure agreement he signed just as any reputable purveyor of knowledge would likewise do. 

For those who prefer data unblemished by suspicion or tax-evading tricksters, here's a more accurate look at the supposed Boomerang Epidemic.  Pew Research found about 40% of young adults have at some point moved back home if only for a short period.
Overall, 39% of all adults ages 18 to 34 say they either live with their parents now or moved back in temporarily in recent years, but there is considerable variance by age. Among 18- to 24-year-olds more than half (53%) live at home or moved in for a time during the past few years.
According to the survey 40% of 18- to 24-year-olds currently live with their parents, and the vast majority of them say they did not move back home because of economic conditions (in fact many of them may have never moved out in the first place). Among those ages 25 to 34, only 12% currently live with their parents.
There you have it.  I only wonder why the pollsters didn't ask how many Gen Xers, Yers? Digital Natives? Who are they? had never moved out.  I'm sure there's another survey somewhere telling us how many don't but then again we might not able to believe it.

But don't despair if your nearly grown child does come knocking with dorm room in tow. Apparently 96% will do chores and 35% hand over some rent.

Only 24% will say moving home for economic reasons has messed up their relationship with you.

At least they won't be hiding in an island tax shelter sucking down Margaritas.


Becca said...

Wow! I'd taken that one on faith. Bad me.

Normalizing multi-generational households is cool, but doing it through lies, or misleading people about the Most Fail generation ever is not very helpful.

Polly Palumbo, Ph.D. said...

I'm very curious about the supposed Twentysomething and how that statistic came about. Did someone make it up out of the air? Was there ever a survey?