From the Star Ledger:
The bed is on an elevated bunk. Below the bed is a desk, dressed with items from college: clothes, books and accessories. The floor is barely visible beneath a slew of still-stuffed bags of clothes.
In 2016, Dina Bardakh, 23, uprooted her life from Hunter College, along with the degree in political science she received, and plopped down inside the 273-square-foot room of her mother’s two-bedroom modest apartment alongside the Hudson River.
“I never unpacked,” Bardakh explains. “I never imagined myself back here for as long as I have been. So, what do you do then?”
Bardakh is not the only one asking that question. As another college graduation season comes to an end, and a whole new set of millennials enter the job market, the prospect of recent graduates simply moving out of their parents’ homes is dimmer than ever. According to Census data, 47 percent of 18-to-34-year-olds in New Jersey were still living with their parents in 2015, the highest rate in the country.
The situation shows little sign of improving, either: Data released earlier this month by the National Low Income Housing Coalition says tenants need to make $27.31 an hour, the seventh highest in the country, to afford the average two-bedroom apartment in New Jersey. That makes it virtually impossible for someone making an entry-level salary to afford his or her own place, at least not without teaming up with multiple roommates and/or forgoing other necessities.
Meanwhile, higher education funding has dropped nationwide, including 23 percent in New Jersey from 2008 to 2015. The resulting increased student debt is also keeping many recent grads stuck in their parents’ places.
“It is sort of unprecedented, we would have to go back generations, to come to this situation where grown children live at home to the extent that they are today,” said Dr. James Hughes, dean of the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
In recent years, many frustrated college graduates are giving up the promise of adult life in the New York-New Jersey area altogether. According to the 2007-2014 American Community Survey, 111,674 people age 18-34 moved out of New Jersey, the highest number for an age group in the state.
“I was really hopeful when I started going to college,” Bardakh said. “It was New York City, the capital of the world. I thought there was going to be so many opportunities.”
According to Hughes, the downward trajectory began with the financial crisis of 2008, the repercussions of which are still being felt by young people.
“That set back many millennials in their economic progression or career trajectory,” he said. “They may have been unemployed for awhile, under employed or coming out of college. They lost several years of earning growth power during that time period.”
This also means young people just getting out of college find themselves this spring now competing for entry-level jobs with people who graduated years earlier.
McKoy said the Garden State is facing an even harsher burden than most states.
“This is definitely a nationwide issue, but New Jersey is a little bit more drastic because it is a very, very expensive place to live, and this is happening at a time where wages are pretty much stagnant and most people in that age range, especially on the lower half, would be working around minimum wage jobs,” he said.
And, says Hughes, “when you have such a powerful trend such as this, there are no silver bullets to change it. At best, some policies could deflect it slightly.”