A study was conducted by several sociology professors from Dartmouth College and Montana State University. They analyzed the correlation between “boomeranging” after college and level of student loan debt. For those who don’t know, “boomeranging” after college refers to moving back in with their parents.
The study findings shed doubt on the common idea that graduates move back home in large numbers purely due to their high levels of debt; contrary to other studies, this report attributes the phenomenon to another factor.
In short, Jason Houle and Cody Warner, both professors at their respective universities, came to a very different conclusion. Instead of student loan debt magnitude, the leading contributing factor to “boomeranging” after college was found to be college completion. In other words, those who did not graduate had a much greater chance at moving back in with their parents. This is a pretty obvious conclusion to make, but it doesn’t necessarily validate the findings of this study.
This information technically does not disprove the common theory. The evidence came from a survey of over 5,000 individuals who graduated college between 2002 and 2006 (or born between 1980 and 1984). The main finding claimed that “Boomerangers” had less student loan debt than debtors who stayed away from home.
The results sound quite indicative, but there is one major shortcoming to this study. It only analyzes a narrow group of students who would have attended college during the early 2000s. A totally different economic environment and student loan situation was present. Student loans were not federalized to the degree that they are today, and the economic recession in 2008 had not occurred yet.
With this in mind, it would seem shortsighted to make the claim that student loan debt is not correlated with “boomeranging.” Taking a similar report by the Federal Reserve Board into account (which came to the opposite conclusion), this becomes more believable.
If anything, this study may confirm changes to graduate tendencies following college. As debt levels have risen, the “boomerang” rate may have risen as well. When comparing the recent Federal Reserve study and the Dartmouth study, this idea becomes viable.
At any rate, it is pretty obvious why graduates need to move back home. They have high levels of debt, so paying for rent or mortgages elsewhere does not seem doable. For many, moving home is the answer to a big problem. This reality is most likely more prominent today than it was during the early 2000s.