New Clark Poll of Emerging Adults belies 'freeloader' stereotype

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In contrast with cultural stereotypes, particularly that of "freeloading" off their parents, young people actually receive little to no financial support from their parents and strive for independence, even if it means living on a tight budget, according to the latest Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults.

The poll, directed by Clark research professor of psychology Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, reports 69 percent of 18-to 29-year-olds surveyed nationwide receive either little to no financial support from their parents or only occasional support when needed. Broken down further, the study finds that parental support decreases as emerging adults age. While 28 percent of the 18-21 age group and 13 percent of the 22-25 age group receive regular support for living expenses from their parents, only 6 percent of the 26-29 age group do so.

"Financial independence is among the most important criteria for adulthood, from the perspective of emerging adults. They prefer not to rely on their parents because doing so often comes with strings attached," said Arnett.

In keeping with these findings, the Clark University study also reveals that 75 percent of emerging adults prefer to live independently of their parents, even if it means facing financial struggles.

"Our research shows that parental support of emerging adult children diminishes as these children age into their 20s and also tends to focus on one-time expenses, such as furniture or a car repair, rather than ongoing assistance—although we have seen that keeping grown-up kids on a cell phone plan tends to be the last remnant of parental support," he said.

The Clark University Poll of Emerging Adults is based on 1,029 interviews of 18-to 29-year-olds nationwide. The margin of error is +/- 3.06 percent. A mixed-mode methodology was used for this project.