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More young adults are leaving the nest


 Kevin Ratz, 27, left his parents' home for a job at a flight school in Chicago.
Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune
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Date published: 12/30/2012

By Don Lee

Tribune Washington Bureau

After riding out the tough economy in their parents' basements, more young American adults are breaking out on their own, pushing up the nation's mobility rate and giving an important boost to the housing market and the broader recovery.

Thanks to improving job prospects and super-low mortgage rates, young adults are moving into their own apartments and buying homes in increasingly greater numbers, according to real estate experts and government statistics.

Census Bureau data show that the nation added more than 2 million households in the 12 months that ended March 31, about triple the annual average for the previous four years. Most of the gain came from middle-aged and older baby boomers, but young adults are hitting the road as well.

The recession had knocked the overall U.S. interstate migration to a post-War World II low, but last year the number of people ages 25 to 29 who moved across state lines reached its highest level in 13 years.

A week ago, Kevin Ratz, 27, hitched a U-haul to his Ford pickup, loaded the trailer with furniture, stereo equipment and skis, and drove to Chicago.

Ratz left behind his parents' suburban Detroit home, where he stayed in his childhood room for the past two years. The room was pretty much unchanged with its sports-car posters on the wall and youth-hockey trophies lining the bookshelf.

One big reason he moved back in with his parents was the weak job market for young pilots. Although he had a degree in aviation from Western Michigan University and some experience as a flight instructor, he found few well-paying openings in the field.

So for the past two years, Ratz waited it out by working as a tour guide, saving what money he could and enjoying his mom's home cooking.

Recently he landed a job at a flight school in Chicago and took an apartment in the hip neighborhood of Wicker Park just north of downtown.

"It feels good to get out and be on my own again," Ratz said.

People tend to move long distances for new jobs. During the recession and slow recovery, young people better educated than their parents' generation have struggled to compete with older workers in a job market with several unemployed people for every opening. That compares with about two people unemployed for every job opening before the 2007-2009 recession.

Without sufficient incomes, they delayed marriages and having children, and simply stayed where they could pay little or no rent. The result was that 2 million more adults ages 18 to 34 were living under their parents' roof last year than four years earlier, according to a recent census analysis.