Graduating can be intimidating: For students reaching the end of their college careers, mixed feelings of anxiety and accomplishment are common. Adult life promises rude awakenings, none more challenging than securing housing. Faced with high rents and student loan payments, plenty of recent graduates head home to mom and dad. Others flock to midsize cities, priced out of major hubs like New York and Los Angeles. Now, a new generation of those 22 years of age and younger are facing these challenges: Members of Generation Z are making their way through college, and some of the oldest have already graduated. Will this age group follow in millennials' footsteps or take a different path post-college? How many will elect to move home, and how many will stick around in their college towns?
The Apartment Guide team conducted a nationwide survey of more than 250 members of Generation Z who were currently in college, gauging their plans for living arrangements after graduation. Our findings present interesting contrasts in their anticipated expenses and housing expectations. To see how a new generation intends to enter adult life, keep reading.
Staying Put or Going Places?
Among the members of Generation Z surveyed, the most common post-graduation plan was to stay in the area in which they attended college. After all, housing is exceedingly cheap in many college towns, and sticking around could offer a soft transition out of student life. Another 33% had plans to move elsewhere, while nearly 29% intended to head back to their hometowns. In many cases, the decision to return home reflected a lack of solid prospects: Gen Zers who had not secured a job after graduation were six times as likely to head back home to live with their parents. This predicament was quite common: Just 30% of college seniors had a job lined up for after graduation.
Indeed, more than half of respondents said they planned to live with their parents after graduating from college. In this sense, they seem to be continuing a precedent established by millennials who lived with their parents more often and for longer periods than any prior generation.
While just 1% planned to buy a home right after college, homeownership was on the Gen Zer wish list.
Recent research suggests that members of this generation are particularly focused on buying their own homes. In fact, moving in with mom and dad could relate to this goal: Money saved on rent could go toward a down payment.
Heading Back Home
Of those who planned to crash at their parents' place, Gen Zers with prior work experience had plans to get their own place relatively quickly. Respondents with paid internships or full-time jobs in college planned to stay for three months, while those who didn't work intended to stay with their folks for a year. This could reflect differences in earning ability: With limited employment experience, finding a well-paying gig could be tough. Accordingly, staying at home might seem pretty attractive. That being said, four of the top five reasons present clear indicators that having minimal financial obligations likely persuade Gen Zers to live at home.
Of course, moving back into your bedroom does have its disadvantages. The largest setback that Gen Zers who planned to move home were worried about was delaying their independence and lack of privacy. Left unaddressed, these negative feelings can have serious implications: One recent study found that moving back home is a significant predictor of depression. Among future graduates who did not plan to move home, most seemed to recognize personal need for autonomy. Almost 63% said they needed their independence, and another 5% said their parents wouldn't let them move home.
Making Money, Moving Out
Our respondents had strikingly modest post-college income ambitions regardless of having lined up a job in their industry or not. The median salary for recent college graduates is closer to $50,000 annually, and Gen Zers currently benefit from a tight labor market. With almost 87% of respondents planning to move out and pay rent without assistance from their parents or relying on a partner to foot this bill, Gen Zers may need to seek higher pay. With rent steadily rising nationwide, new college graduates may struggle to keep to their ideal rent budgets – a mere $617 a month on average.
Of course, roommates can help keep individual costs down: Those who planned to live alone reasonably expected to pay more on average. Interestingly, however, people who expected to live with four roommates planned to pay over $643 a month, slightly more than the overall average. This could reflect the rental dynamics in competitive markets like New York or San Francisco, where recent graduates can pack into cramped apartments and still pay a lot per person. Additionally, those who didn't work in college expected to pay the least per month. Perhaps this cohort has unreasonable expectations, whereas those who had jobs or internships are better acquainted with real living costs.
In terms of housing criteria, affordability was the top priority among Gen Zers. This fiscal prudence resonates with other recent studies, which suggest that Gen Zers may be more frugal than their millennial predecessors. Proximity to work was the second most cited priority and an understandable one, as commute times continue to rise nationwide. Low crime frequency also figured prominently in many Gen Zers' housing hunts, although female respondents were especially likely to feel strongly about this safety concern.
Interestingly, men placed greater emphasis on high-end finishes, valuing features such as marble countertops, stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors more than their female counterparts. By contrast, female Gen Zers were more focused on gate or lobby security in keeping with their concerns about local crime. Additionally, women were more likely to value an apartment that permitted pets, a perennial conundrum for some landlords.
Perks Worth Paying For
How much would Gen Zers pay for each item on their housing wish list? Male and female respondents were both willing to pay top dollar to be close to their place of employment; for those who drive to work, this investment could be partially offset by savings on gas. Similarly, respondents of both genders said they'd pay over $100 extra to have utilities included (typically, monthly utility bills amount to much more in total). Female Gen Zers were willing to pay nearly as much to have their apartment furnished, although men were somewhat less enthusiastic.
Other interesting differences emerged between male and female Gen Zers: Women were willing to pay significantly more each month to be close to family and friends. Conversely, men were willing to put up more cash for tangible upgrades, such as hardwood floors and marble countertops. For members of both genders, however, certain perks just didn't seem attractive enough to fetch a substantially higher price. These included amenities typically shared among residents, such as movie theaters and pools in the building or complex.
Adapting to Adulthood
Our findings suggest that Gen Zers' housing concerns are primarily practical: They value proximity to work over nearness to nightlife and affordability over luxury amenities. Even those who plan to live at home have responsible intentions, such as saving money for a place of their own. To their elders, Gen Zers may seem troublingly dependent, leaning on their parents for housing rather than embracing adult autonomy. But our data indicates the opposite is true: Many graduates make the humbling choice to move home precisely to secure their financial futures. What could be more adult than delaying gratification in service of long-term goals?
When recent graduates leap to living on their own, they'll need intuitive tools to locate the best options in their budget. We've got them covered with the industry's most powerful and user-friendly platform for finding the perfect apartment. Apartment Guide listings are updated continuously, with real images and accurate information to help you find your favorites. Whether you plan to move right after college or wait a few months to save up, we're here to help when you're ready for us.
There were 261 respondents from Prolific.ac. The respondents who were excluded missed the attention-check question or indicated they were currently not enrolled in a college/university or that they were currently a freshman. Throughout the survey, any outliers were excluded from our data. From the able respondents, 53% were women, and 47% were men. Our respondents ranged in age from 18 to 24 with a mean of 21 and a standard deviation of 1.2.
The data we are presenting are self-reported. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include but are not limited to selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration. As a result, the outliers in this study have been excluded.
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