You may recall that a famous blogger recently observed:
Whenever and wherever a human does something of which the Times is not certain it approves, the grey lady turns to psychology, like an eleventh-grader with a collection of Capote stories and a looming term paper deadline. The wounded loner narrative is thus their second most popular plotline, a whisker behind the fake trend story. It is marvelously elastic; I've read it regarding murderers, lefty politicians, preachermen, domestic terrorists, stand-up comedians, indie actors, and small-label musicians.Add to that list "twenty-somethings." A regular reader emailed me this article, and now a passel of idiots at Slate are chewing on it with the tenacity of My Dog Pippi on a shank bone, and so I suppose the Times is due for another debunking. The story in question in fact embraces both the bogus trend and the the pseudopsychological--doubly damnworthy.
Robin Henig's statistics are obviously and deliberately vague. Consider:
The 20s are a black box, and there is a lot of churning in there. One-third of people in their 20s move to a new residence every year. Forty percent move back home with their parents at least once.One-third do what? You mean to say that 33% of the entire cohort of 20-29-year-olds changes residence one time per every 12-month interval for a period of 10 years? Or is this some kind of prorated average of total number of residence changes within the cohort divided by a number of years . . . I mean, what? As for the notion that "forty percent move back home with their parents at least once," well, what percentage of that forty percent make their "at least once" move immediately following a graduation and remain home for less than a calendar year?
It hardly matters. Henig and her editors aren't much interested in establishing any meaningful measures of adulthood or independence; they aren't interested in defining their terms; they haven't the slightest intention of doing anything other than, how would Michiko put it, limning the Zeitgeist and delivering a piece of banal provocation. They immediately depart the statistical shores and throw up a farrago of mental health studies, pop psychology, and crackpot histories of the "discovery" of adolescence. What they conspicuously fail to do is to cast their eyes toward yonder economy, except to make a vaguely Friedmanian observation that iPads mean you have to go to college or else you will never get hired. Hey, maybe decades of downward pressure on real wages, the destruction of even the tissue of socially guaranteed retirement, and the artificial extension of the duration of the working life in response to these pressures has created a paucity of demand for new labor that has made economic independence economically unobtainable for young people. I'm just, you know, throwin' it out there. Maybe the near-total absence of even subsistence-level wages for people without an at-minimum four-year program of educational debt-indenturage is driving the upticking of the age of marriage and the formation of independent households just as much as "social acceptance of premarital sex." I'm just, you know, sayin'. Maybe the general trend of our society at all but the highest levels of class and income, which are principally inherited anyway, is toward debt-and-wage-peonage that is gradually reducing the viability of the independent household to exist at all.
I am actually somewhat sanguine about this latter point, but that is an outgrowth of both my upbringing and my thoughts about anarchism and mutualism; there is a lot to be said for extended, blended familial units and a more clannish system of mutual support--I rather suspect it will pay off badly for our betters, who gained greatly from the anomic "nuclear" family, which is an extremely precarious economic unit, as present circumstances so plainly demonstrate.
That digression aside, even if we concede for argument that "twentysomethings" are doing what the article says they are, then the only sensible, coherent, and correct conclusion is that the kids are rational actors, that even in temporizing they are simply responding to the prevailing social, economic, and political circumstances of their times.