Are You a Typical American Adult?

Except for the years (and years) spent going to college, I have lived the life of the typical American adult, at least on one metric.

Based on an analysis of data collected as part of the Health and Retirement Study (HRS), a project sponsored by the Institute of Aging and the Social Security Administration, the New York Times discovered that the typical American only lives 18 miles away from their mommy, and only 20 percent live more than a couple of hours’ drive from their parents.

When my wife and I got married, we lived in Ambler, just 10.4 miles away from where I grew up (King of Prussia), and where my mom and dad still loved. After a few years we moved to Rosemont, which was even closer at 6.2 miles (perfect for when I wanted to run a 10K, which I never did).

A few years later, after my Dad passed away, my mom and aunt moved into our neighborhood, their house just 0.2 miles from ours.

In other words, I haven’t wandered very far away from my mom; even the years I spent in college weren’t too far away from King of Prussia – East Stroudsburg, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.

One of the biggest determinants of how far people venture from home is education. Those with college and professional degrees are much more likely to live farther from their parents than those with a high school education, in part because they have more job opportunities in big cities.

So at least from an educational perspective, there should have been a good chance that I was one of the ones that moved further away from home than the typical American. But I am, admittedly, somewhat of a homebody, and I had little desire to see what opportunities there may have been outside my neck of the woods.

Another significant determinant is income. Wealthier people can afford to pay for services like child and elder care, while low-income families are more likely to rely on nearby relatives.

Other determinants of where one will live as an adult include geography, marital status, gender, and race:

  • Families live closest in the Northeast and the South, and farthest apart on the West Coast and in the Mountain States.
  • Married people live farther from their parents than singles.
  • Women are slightly likelier than men to leave their hometowns.
  • Blacks are more likely to live near their parents than whites, while Latinos are no more likely to live near their parents.

The most-cited reason for living near home is the tug of family ties, while the most-cited reason for leaving is job opportunities, according to a Pew Research Center survey. It found that with the exception of college or military service, 37 percent of Americans had never lived outside their hometown, and 57 percent had never lived outside their home state (I would be part of that 57%).

So while I may be “typical”, two of my sons could be considered atypical. One oldest son lives in Raleigh, NC (425 miles away), and our middle son lives in Hawaii (4,380 miles away). Our youngest son makes up for those distances a bit, since he lives at home. On average, that makes the average distance that our sons live from their mom over 1,600 miles.

That must mean there’s a lot of adults, like me, who must live much closer than 18 miles away.

So while I have been happy with the choice of where we have lived, I think our two oldest sons are also happy with where they are living.

Fortunately for us, the two locations are great places to visit…

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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