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Living at home

Changes in where and with whom young people live are important relationship milestones for young people. The form and timing of these developments vary across individuals and, at times, may overlap with other relationship changes. For instance, young people who parent or who are partnered might also live with their families of origin. While these multiple family roles may obscure the precise timing of relationship change, the living situations of young people can still provide an indication of change in familial relationships.

Analysis for this indicator uses data from the five censuses from 1986 to 2006 to reclassify the family roles of young people into living situation types. Analysis focuses on one living situation type in particular – young people who live with their families of origin. This type consists of young people whose primary family role is defined as ‘child within a family nucleus’ only, and who do not have partners or children of their own. All other young people are regarded as living independently of their family of origin, and include young people whose primary family roles are defined as partners in couple-only families, parents in couple and one-parent families, and those not living in a family nucleus.

Summary of findings

  • In 2006, 57 percent of young people lived with their families of origin.
  • Young people were moving away from their families of origin at earlier ages, but those who did remain with their families did so for longer.
  • Young people began to move away from their families at a higher rate from about the age of 17 years across all censuses. The proportion of young people aged 17 years who lived at home, was the same in 2006 as in 1986.
  • Young males were more likely to live with their families than young females. Slightly more females and slightly less males were living with their families in 2006, compared with 1986.
  • Young Pacific peoples were more likely to live with their families than any other ethnic group. Young Māori and young Asians were less likely to live with their families of origin. Young Māori also tended to move away from their families earlier than other ethnic groups.

Same likelihood of living with family in 2006 as in 1986

The proportion of all young people who lived with their family of origin barely changed between 1986 (58 percent) and 2006 (57 percent) (see figure 3.1). The median age (at which half are aged below and half aged above) of young people living with their families decreased from 20 years in 1986 to 19 years by 2001. The median age then increased slightly, to just over 19 years of age by the 2006 Census.

Young people’s movement away from their families of origin accelerated from the age of 17 years. A steady rise in the proportion of young people living with their families at this age occurred between 1986 (83 percent) and 1996 (91 percent). This was followed by a pronounced decrease by 2001 (81 percent). The most recent census in 2006 again showed an increase in those living with their families to 1986 levels (83 percent).

 Graph, Proportion of Young People Who Lived in Family of Origin by age

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More young males than young females lived with their families

A higher proportion of young males than young females lived at home across all censuses – 13 percentage points more in 1986, and eight percentage points more by 2006 (see figure 3.2). The proportion of young females living at home increased slightly (by 2 percentage points) between the 1986 and 2006 Censuses. In contrast, the proportion of young males living at home slightly decreased (by 3 percentage points) over the same period.

Graph, Proportion of Young People Who Lived in Family of Origin, by sex

Figure 3.3 shows a narrowing of the gap between the proportion of young males and females who lived at home. From 1986 to 2006, the gap between the proportion of young males and females, aged 24 years who lived with their families, fell from 14 to eight percentage points.

Graph, Proportion of Young People Who Lived in Family of Origin by age and sex

Furthermore, young females aged 21 years and over were more likely to live at home in 2006 than in 1986. In both census years, approximately 30 percent of young females aged 21 years were living with their families. By the age of 24 years, 19 percent of young females were living at home in 2006, compared with 12 percent in 1986.

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Young Pacific peoples more likely to live with family

Overall, young Pacific peoples were more likely to live at home (66 percent by 2006) than young people in other ethnic groups (see figure 3.4). In contrast, across all the censuses, young Māori were generally less likely to live with their families of origin (54 percent by 2006). The Asian ethnic group showed a consistent decrease in the proportion of young people who lived with their families between 1996 and 2006. By the 2006 Census, almost half of all young Asians lived with their families (49 percent), making this group less likely than the other ethnic groups to live in their family home.

Graph, Proportion of Young People Who Lived in Family of Origin by selected ethnic group

Figure 3.5 shows that, in 2006, young Māori were not only less likely to live with their families, but also amongst the least likely to do so across almost all years of age. Young Europeans also began to move away from their families of origin from the age of 17 years, but this ethnic group had the highest proportion of those aged 15 years living at home (86 percent). By the age of 24 years, however, young Europeans had the second lowest proportion of young people living at home (20 percent). By the age of 24 years, 20 percent of young people in the European, Māori, and Asian ethnic groups were still living with their families of origin. In contrast, one-third of young Pacific peoples aged 24 years were still living at home.

Graph, Proportion of Young people who lived in Family of Origin by age and selected ethnic group

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Discussion – Living at home

Young people generally began to move away from their families in significant numbers from the age of 17 years. Census data shows that the proportion of all young people who lived with their parents peaked in 1991, but then fell again by the 2006 Census to reach levels similar to 1986. The data also shows that young people moved away from their families at incrementally younger ages between 1986 and 2001. In contrast, in 2006 the young people who were living with their families of origin were older than in previous censuses. These trends are particularly evident in the sex and year of age analysis.

Young females were less likely than young males to live with their families at all the censuses. They also tended to move away from their families at earlier ages than young males. Despite these trends, the median age at which young males moved away from their families decreased by approximately one year, while young females were increasingly living with their families, and doing so at older ages. These changes meant that by the last census, the proportion of these groups living with their families of origin was beginning to align.

Several factors may explain these changes. The first is the significant fall in the proportion of young females who married between 1986 and 2006, while the likelihood of young females parenting without a partner rose from 1996. In addition, the proportion of young females entering into tertiary level education increased over the two decades from 1986, and at a higher rate than for young males (Ministry of Education, 2009; Ministry of Social Development, 2002; Ministry of Social Development, 2005). At the same time, the likelihood of young males partnering increased from 1996, and at a higher rate than for young females. These factors will be discussed later in this report.

Young Māori were more likely to live away from their families than any other ethnic group, and at earlier ages. By contrast, young Pacific peoples were the most likely to live with their families of origin, and for longer. Analysis of other indicators later in this report shows that these trends are associated with differences in the rates of partnership and family formation for different ethnic groups.

The ethnic group of young people that showed the most change in their move towards independent living was the Asian ethnic group. Over the ten-year period between 1996 and 2006, young Asians went from having one of the highest likelihoods of living with their families, to one of the lowest. The increase in young Asians living away from their families reflects the rise in the number of young people from Asian countries arriving in New Zealand to study.

Overall, the ‘living at home’ indicator suggests that young people were as likely to live with their families in 2006 as they were in 1986. Although young people were more likely to move away from their families of origin at younger ages, those who remained were likely to live with their families for longer. Young males were more likely to live at home than young females, although, by 2006, more young females were living with their families at later ages. Certain ethnic groups also showed a higher likelihood of living with their families, and doing so at older ages. It may be that these events reflect a combination of both personal circumstances and external economic developments. For instance, changes in housing affordability may have directly affected young people’s access to the accommodation market. Twenty-five percent of all people in households spent more than 30 percent of their disposable income on housing in 1997 – an increase from 11 percent in 1988 (Ministry of Social Development, 2008). These changes in housing affordability may have affected young people’s choices about their living situation, particularly as young people tend to have lower incomes compared with other age groups.

Changes in other economic or lifestyle circumstances, such as participation in the labour force or in tertiary study, are also factors that may influence young people’s decisions about their living situations. For instance, in 1986, four percent of all those aged over 15 years were enrolled in public tertiary education; this proportion rose to 14 percent by 2006 (Ministry of Social Development, 2005; Ministry of Social Development, 2007). These changes were even more evident for young females, and may be associated with the increase in young females aged 21 years and over living with their families for longer. The affect of unemployment on young people may also be associated with changes in living situations. Further detailed analyses of these particular life course events will be presented in the second report, Young People 1986–2006: Study, work, and income (Statistics New Zealand, in press). 

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