Men living at home


CBC News Viewpoint | April 8, 2004 | More from Georgie Binks

Georgie Binks I was speaking with a high school teacher the other day and she said a fellow teacher (male) at her school seemed to be on the road to becoming vice-principal. But, she said, there was just one problem. She and the other teachers joked that they thought he should be able to make his own lunch before he got the job. The twist? Well, even though he's in his mid-40s, he's still living at home with his parents.

He's not alone. There are thousands of other Canadian men who have chosen Mommy and Daddy over leafing through the apartment ads, purchasing the bachelor issue second-hand green couch from the Salvation Army, taking on possibly a roommate or two, and learning how to press POWER-HIGH for five minutes to cook a microwave dinner.

I zero in on men because they far surpass women when it comes to choosing not to leave the family house. According to the 2001 census, 41 per cent of the 3.8 million young adults between the ages of 20 and 29 in Canada lived with their parents. But between the sexes, 64 per cent of men aged 20-24 lived with their parents, while 52 per cent of women in the same age group did.

In the 25-29 age group, 29 per cent of the guys were still sharing the TV converter with their parents, as opposed to 19 per cent of women. But here's a scary statistic 33 per cent of unmarried men between the ages of 30 and 34 are living with their parents, while only 22 per cent of women are.

John Anderson is vice-president, strategic partnerships, for the Canadian Council on Social Development. He says the whole phenomenon of kids staying with their parents longer is attributable to several things. He explains, "The rising cost of housing, cost of post secondary tuition, combined with the fact that young people are paid less today than they were 20 years ago."

Well, if money is one of the big reasons kids don't want to leave, why are more women getting out of the house? In 2001, women earned 64.2 per cent of what men did, although a study done by Paul Glick and Sung-ling Lin in 1986 found that young men living with their parents had a higher unemployment rate than young men living away from relatives.

Often cultural differences are cited the fact that children in certain cultures are more prone to living with their parents. For instance, in 1994, in Italy, 66 per cent of men between the ages of 25-29 lived with their parents, yet the number for women was still lower 44 per cent. In Greece, the number was 62 per cent for men, while for women it was 32 per cent. Even there the sex differences prevail.

Are women simply more independent? One explanation is that women marry younger, but these days women are putting off marriage and still getting out of the house. One female lawyer I know who moved out of her parents' home at 18, says, "You feel better about yourself when you are self sufficient."

Vancouver sociologist Barbara Mitchell at Simon Fraser University, who surveyed 1,900 youths in the Vancouver region in 1999-2000, says, "Many people argue girls tend to mature quicker than boys, and therefore have the skills that facilitate independent living."

As well, Mitchell says, "Women tell us their parents keep tabs on them more, they have stricter curfews and there is a greater expectation girls will help out at home, complaining their brothers are more pampered." Many girls with brothers can confirm that. They may be subject to a strict curfew and stuck with the dishes every night, while they watch their brothers waltz in at all hours without any domestic responsibilities.

Armin Brott, author of Father for Life, says men feel more a sense of entitlement and less of a sense of needing to pay for the privilege of staying at home than women do.

Some might wonder how an adult man might carry out a relationship with a woman when he lives at home, but many are adept at sneaking women in. That's, of course, if the woman isn't frightened off by the fact the guy lives at home. Internet columnist Don Diebel advises men that there is a stigma attached to men in their 30s and 40s living at home and that they should never reveal it on their first date with a woman.

Leslie, a 40-something business executive says she and her friends call men who still live at home (and she says a surprising number of divorced men move back home) "basement boys" or "cellar dwellers." She says, "They often tell you gradually and an excuse is attached to it. The single biggest thing I have heard is men who have separated, who have lost the house, who don't have the funds. I'm not sure why the first thing they think of when they separate is going back home. It would never occur to me."

She says it may be a financial issue, but she ponders that they likely have never cleaned a toilet themselves. "I'm surprised they don't care what other people think, what people in the workplace think, what potential dates think. That's not a really attractive thing to admit to a woman."

Others worry that a man who still has his mother cooking him dinner when he's 34 isn't going to be much of a kitchen wizard if he marries. As well, says Mitchell, "If you have a guy who has lived at home for a long period of time, and hasn't cut the apron strings after he has left home, there could be problems that transfer over into the new partnership."

Some parents love it. And these days, says Anderson, parents and their children get along better than perhaps the '60s generation did with their parents. "There's a greater cultural compatibility between parents and children now. When I was a young person, there was a greater cultural chasm between parents and young people. Remember 'don't trust anybody over 30'?"

But I know others who abhor it. One woman I know was so frustrated in her attempts to oust her son, 25, from the family home that she sold her place and bought a smaller one. Another mother, who had purchased two washers and two dryers so that her sons, one of whom is 30, would do their own laundry, came home one day to find her son had used her washing machine. He complained to me that she had dumped his laundry on the floor.

I couldn't sympathize with him. After all, if an adult man is still living with his mother and it's her house, she gets to call the shots, crazy as they might be. Maybe it's time more men decided to come up with that first and last month's rent and be a big boy.

Then maybe that vice-principal's job, just like his own lunch that he's made and packed himself would be in the bag.


Just because a statistic states that a certain percentage of women are not living with their parents does not mean they are being independent and living on their own.


Why not write an article on some women's need to run into a man's arms instead of living on her own?


Nancy Williams


I have never encountered such a violently dismal abuse of statistics. As the other responders have shown, a statistic means nothing without a search for its causes.


A lot of kids between 20 and 30 are also still in school getting college and university education. It saves A lot of money to live at home during this period.


Joseph Postma

I for one would have done a bit more research with these men. One of the top reasons these men go back to live with the parents are because of financial reasons.


In your article, one woman (Leslie), states "it may be a financial issue, but she ponders that they likely have never cleaned a toilet themselves. "I'm surprised they don't care what other people think, what people in the workplace think, what potential dates think. That's not a really attractive thing to admit to a woman."


Trust me, these men care about what people think, and they have cleaned many toilets. The really unattractive part is women with no compassion. Most women refuse to date a man who may be going through a separation or a divorce especially if it turns nasty.


Maybe "Leslie" should stop pondering and ask more questions. Maybe you could rewrite your article and survey a few more men, you might find something much more relevant to write about like"The real reason men live at home".


B. Baker

I just finished reading your article, "Men Living At Home" and wish to offer my comment.


I found it flippant and superficial about a subject that many, many men (women) are very sensitive to right now.


You note that "a surprising number of divorced men move back in with their parents". How can this be surprising? I personally don't know of one divorced man who got to keep his house. Perhaps this has something to do with the statistic whereby less women are living with their parents than men. They get the house.


Maybe it is because more women are supported by their ex-spouses than men. Consider the social assistances much is more easily available to women than men. I find it abhorrent that you can take a situation where a man has lost everything, and believe me, most men lose EVERYTHING. Has nowhere left to go but to move back with his parents, a place he thought he left forever behind in his early adulthood independence and you make it sound like it is because he can't clean a toilet.


Imagine, if you can, the shame and sadness at having nowhere to turn after years of building your own home but back to your parents. I am so angry that I hardly can find the words to express it.


You want to write about gender - then investigate the homeless men, the bankrupt men, the male suicides and yes, the men living with their parents after unfair divorce orders, and unreasonable child support orders. That, Ms. Binks, is something worthy of investigating and writing about.


Debra Harper

What business is it of Georgie Binks or anyone else, for that matter, what a person's living arrangements are? Many people, male and female, still live with their parents even in their 30's and 40's, and each person's situation is different.


I know I have my own reasons and they are unique to me. Of all the personality traits and conditions a person may have, THIS one is deemed important?!


And Binks obviously a sexist who holds a bias against men, focusing completely on men who live with mom and dad but giving all women a free pass. She contends it's because more men than women do so, but 33% to 22% isn't an overwhelming margin by anyone's definition.


Brian Gillin | USA

I think that many single men feel compelled to live at home for free rather than squander potential savings on rent, in order to ensure that once they enter into a serious relationship, they have enough money saved up to foot the lion's share of the cost of co-habitation.


As an independent, working woman, I have chosen to continue to live at home in order to save up a good chunk of money for a down payment, rather than relying upon my significant other to come up with the cash.


As a result, I have managed to pay off some exorbitant student loans, set up a sizeable RRSP and save a decent amount of money for a down payment in less than three years after entering the work force.


This is not to say that it could not have been done if I were living away from home and paying rent, but I do believe that it could not have been accomplished this quickly.Kudos to the "cellar dwellers" for having the good sense to plan for a solid financial future.


R. Sultan

I lived at home until I was 34, because my father had a stroke and was unable to do a lot of the normal things around the house or shovel the driveway. I also continued to live with my mother for 1 year after my father died, because my mother was alone and my siblings lived in other parts of Canada and overseas.


Does that make me a 'basement boy'? Maybe it just makes me someone who cares about my family -- something which you can't see through your feminist, anti-male colored glasses.


Wayne Hall | Halifax

We know some men are living at home after a divorce because they can't go anywhere else. They have lost their children, their homes, and are trying to pay child support to the best of their ability.


Your article states that in 2001 women made 64.2% of what men make. But what about the age groups in question. Certainly in my own world (the 30-40 age group), of the 4 couples we know best, only one husband makes more than his wife.


When the men become separated from their kids,spouses, and homes, because the wife decides to leave their marriage (as it is in 70% of cases according to Brinig and Allen) he finds himself in deep despair and agony.


The courts rip away his children leaving him with huge legal, spousal, and support payments. He doesn't want to be a "deadbeat dad" so he has to find some place to recover, both emotionally and economically.


Heather and Chris Shaw

I was very disappointed by the bias she showed against men and the lack of research she did to support her arguments. Miss Binks made a 12% difference in the rates at which men and women live at home with their parents her excuse for only looking at men.


She goes on to focus only on how men are immature and irresponsible for staying at home and how it effects women. First of all, she doesn't even make an effort to contact any men who do live at home to find out why.


Instead she interviews several women to ask about their dating experience. This seems like inaccurate third-party research to me.


In many cultures children continue to live at home when not married. It is a consolidation of finances, and often helps both parties. Extended families are often included. Again, Miss Binks failed to look into this issue.


My main objection of this article is that after stating that divorced men are most likely to move back home, instead of looking at the logical question of why, the author instead goes on to slam them for their choice.


The fact is that men are the ones far more likely (80%) to lose their children, and consequently their homes and 30%-50% of their take home pay (men are also far less likely to ask for a divorce (20%)).


I notice that Miss Binks failed to mention these openly published figures. This would make the whole phenomenon a bit different, as it would not only close that 12% gap but likely throw it the other way.


Men, when able to keep their income, could very well live independently more often than women. Of course Miss Binks fails to even look at the possibility.


I do hope you will start to review potential articles in the future to weed out poorly researched and written articles such as this. This type of reporting shows poorly on your own reputation.


Jennifer Kuhn | Pine City, NY

I agree that it's a bit odd for a man to be still at home into his 30s these days, but I think Georgie Binks had her blinders on in writing this column.


In order to find out why men stay at home, she's interviewed academics and plenty of women, but none of the "basement boys" she writes about.


Perhaps many of the women who leave home early do so to live with older men who are already established -- men tend not to do that. Perhaps men are saving money to put down payments on homes rather than renting. I'm sure they'd tell her if she asked, but she didn't.


Guy Nicholson