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Even in affordable Pittsburgh, still living at home — struggling with debt, limited options

Tim Grant, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Home and Consumer News

PITTSBURGH -- After living in Atlanta for 10 years and managing the struggle to keep up with rising expenses and student loan debt, 34-year-old Kara Steiner decided to move back to her parents' house in suburban Pittsburgh last year hoping to re-establish her life in a more affordable city.

She landed a job within a week of coming home. The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh hired her to teach full-time at St. Silvester Elementary School. But the $30,000 salary was just half of what she earned as a teacher in Georgia, which put a damper on her plans to move out of the family home -- at least for a while.

Things went from bad to worse when the teaching job ended in August. The diocese had to cut back its staff because of low enrollment. She spent the summer interviewing for job after job to no avail.

"I wasn't even getting phone calls back from the schools I interviewed with, saying 'thanks for your time,'" Steiner said.

She never expected to still be living with her parents more than a year after she came back. But she has begun to accept the fact that moving out will not happen as fast as she thought.

An increasing number of grown children -- also known as "boomerang kids" -- are moving into their old bedrooms, usually because of financial challenges caused by a life crisis such as divorce or job loss or the high cost of living independently in an age when young adults are confronting record levels of college debt and a tough job market.

The Washington, D.C.-based Pew Research Center found young adults driving the steady rise in multi-generational households. A record 57 million Americans, or 18.1 percent of the U.S. population in 2014, lived in households with more than two generations of adults -- double the number in 1980.

The Pew study attributed the trend to a large loss of employment for young adults during the Great Recession.

Fresh out of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania at age 22, Steiner -- with a degree in speech communications and television production -- headed to Atlanta with no job and $200 in the bank to live with her older sister.

She initially worked in the ad industry, but transitioned to a career in teaching. Her sister worked as a teacher and would often invite Steiner to the classroom to read books to the kids.

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