Why the Average American Lives so Close to Home

When I was 16 years old, my mother just didn’t understand me. I was cool and she just didn’t understand me and my music. She didn’t know how mature I was inside. I was totally and completely grown up.

Of course, looking back I realize I was an idiot, but at the time I couldn’t wait to get as far away from her as possible. Turns out as far away from her as possible is 18 miles.

In the New York Times published an analysis of a University of Michigan study on the health and retirement of older Americans. The typical adult lives only 18 miles from his or her mother. What’s more, only 20 percent of Americans live more than a few hours from their parents by car. “The data reveal a country of close-knit families, with members of multiple generations leaning on one another for financial and practical support," the Times reports.

Socio-economics play a large role in why people stay close to home. “The biggest determinants of how far people venture from home are education and income," the study found. "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, and especially if spouses are juggling the career aspirations of two professionals.”

Wealthier people can afford to pay for childcare or elder care, while low-income families are more likely to rely on nearby family for support.

women likely to leave home town

According to the Times, this isn’t going to change any time soon. “The trend will continue, social scientists say, as baby boomers need more care in old age, and the growing number of two-income families seek help with child care."

Bonus info: Beyond socio-economics, there are also breakdowns based on marital status, sex and race. Janice Compton, an economist at the University of Manitoba, and Robert Pollak, an economist at Washington University’s Olin Business School in St. Louis note that married people are more likely to live farther from their parents than those who are single. Women are more likely to leave their hometowns than men. Black people are more likely to live near their parents than white people.