Millennials Rely On Parents For Financial Help, Study Shows

Jul 9, 2019
Originally published on July 9, 2019 10:03 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's new data out there that shows young adults today are more likely than previous generations to get financial help from their parents, and there are a whole lot of reasons that this is happening. Sam Sanders of NPR's It's Been A Minute is going to tell us why. He's in our studios. Hi, Sam.

SAM SANDERS, BYLINE: Hey there. How are you?

MARTIN: I'm well. Nice to see you.

SANDERS: Likewise.

MARTIN: OK. I have to admit, when I first heard this, I thought, when there are parents who financially are in a position to help their kids, haven't they always?

SANDERS: They have, but it seems to be more frequent. There's a recent report by a financial services firm called Country Financial, and it found that a little more than half of all Americans ages 21 to 37 received some sort of financial assistance from a parent or guardian or someone. And by one count, millennials - the oldest folks in that group are 38.

MARTIN: Right.

SANDERS: About a quarter of those who work full time still rely on their parents to pay at least one of their bills.

MARTIN: Why?

SANDERS: There are so many reasons, Rachel.

MARTIN: Do tell.

SANDERS: But the biggest of them are the cost of stuff just being higher. We all know that college costs more. We know that it costs a lot more to buy a house, and so parents help with that. And we see an entire swath of folks who graduated college into the Great Recession, so their careers have just kind of been slowed to launch as well. When we talk about student debt and how it exacerbates this phenomenon...

MARTIN: Yeah.

SANDERS: ...The folks that are most hurt by this are usually first-generation black and brown students who got swindled by for-profit colleges.

MARTIN: I mean, I know you talk to a lot of young people about how they are grappling with this.

SANDERS: Yes.

MARTIN: What struck you about those conversations?

SANDERS: We talked to a bunch of people, and the one constant throughout was folks telling me how much shame they feel discussing getting help from their parents. We heard from Christina Crupie. She's 22. Her parents helped her pay for living expenses for undergrad, and they're offering to give her a personal loan to help her pay for graduate school. They're not rich, but they can help, and they want to help. But Christina told me, when she talks to friends, she lies about their help.

CHRISTINA CRUPIE: I've had a few conversations with people who, like, we'll start talking about grad school, and they'll be like, oh, yeah, and those loans. And I'm like, uh, yeah, man. Like, kind of just go along with it, and I'm just feeling super weird about myself 'cause I'm not actually taking loans so, like, I'm telling people that I am.

SANDERS: People feel this shame over their privilege, but also, in the midst of all that emotion, people aren't connecting the dots and having larger, more systemic conversations about how some families got all this wealth and how some families did not.

MARTIN: Right. So let's talk about the people who did not. What'd you hear from folks who don't come from generational privilege?

SANDERS: Exactly, and that's a lot of people, you know. So we reached out to Aminatou Sow for this episode. She's a journalist and a host of a podcast called "Call Your Girlfriend." And she's written a lot about being a millennial and dealing with money. And she is a woman of color and an immigrant, and she says, for folks like her, they actually send money home to their parents.

AMINATOU SOW: Whenever I read stories of millennials and money, and especially when we talk about millennial entitlement of money, the subtext is always, like, white millennials and, to be fair, like, a certain kind of white millennial.

SANDERS: For first-gen students, for low-income families, for black and brown folks, they are often asked more often by their parents to give money, and there's data that backs this up. A poll from Clark University found that black and Hispanic parents are more likely to expect support from their children than white parents...

MARTIN: Which...

SANDERS: ...For a lot of reasons.

MARTIN: Right, which upends the entire stereotype about what we think of when we think of millennials and money.

SANDERS: Exactly. All this to say, this group of people, like all groups of people, are not a monolith.

MARTIN: NPR's Sam Sanders. He's the host of It's Been A Minute. And if you want to hear more - and I bet you do - he's got a new episode of his podcast out right now all about this issue - millennials, debt, money, the whole thing. Sam, thanks so much.

SANDERS: Thank you.

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