Megan Porter, 24, and her sister Courtney Porter, 23, have both been going to school and working part time since they were 16.
More than 60 percent of today's young adults have received financial help from their parents -- and those described as having more agreeable personalities as children get more money than others, finds a study to be presented at a meeting of the Population Association of America.
Among the 62 percent of young people getting parents' help, the average amount was $12,185, said lead author Patrick Wightman of the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
About 42 percent of parents help adult children pay their bills, 35 percent help with college tuition, 23 percent help with vehicle expenses and 22 percent help with rent away from home, he found.
Children who parents said were cheerful, self-reliant and got along well with others before age 12 were more likely to receive financial gifts or loans as young adults, Wightman said. And in families with more than one child, "if they perceive one of those kids to have a better attitude or to be more self-reliant, that kid has higher odds of receiving this type of support," he said.
The analysis is based on more than 2,000 interviews with 1,368 young adults ages 19-22 and their parents in 2005, 2007 and 2009.
They're not slackers, notes their father, Frank Porter, 52, of Richwood, N.J. That's why he's among the legions of parents of today's twentysomethings who are financially helping their children adjust from adolescence to adulthood. The recession has left many young adults unemployed or underemployed and has sent many back to school.
Megan, for example, earned an English degree last year and is certified to teach elementary school. But education jobs are difficult to find in New Jersey, she says; now she's working 30 hours a week as an administrative assistant. She's returning to grad school in the fall, aiming to be a college professor.
Her father is paying for both daughters' college educations, including tuition and books. He lets them live rent-free in a house he owns in Bergenfield, N.J., and he pays for car insurance, repairs and gas for each.
"I want to take care of my children," he said. "I want to give them as best of a head start as I can." The self-employed landscaping and remodeling contractor adds that his daughters didn't ask him for financial help -- he just offered it.
Parents, kids closer
That's a phenomenon that researchers across the country have been studying and will discuss this week at the annual meeting of the Population Association of America, which begins today in San Francisco.
Among the studies being presented is one by sociologist Monica Johnson of Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., whose analysis of data from more than 11,000 young adults found that these 18- to 34-year-olds feel emotionally closer to parents who help them financially.
"The increase in closeness to parents happened more when there was more money transferred," she said. She suggests that to young adults, a parent's financial help represents "a sort of continual reassurance."
Sociologist Teresa Swartz of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who also has studied parental giving, says many Baby Boomer parents are giving money now so that their kids' transitions from adolescence to adulthood aren't more difficult than they have to be.
"They're saying: 'I have this money now, and why shall I wait until I die before I pass it along to them? They could use it now,'" she said.
Sally Koslow of New York City, who interviewed more than 150 parents of young adults ages 22-35 for her book "Slouching Toward Adulthood: Observations From the Not-So-Empty Nest" (out in June), said the recession is a "dark presence in this whole equation." "I feel that Boomer parents do feel a bit guilty if they can't help their children as much as they wish they could," she said.
In addition to studies about the transition to adulthood, the 1,900 demographers, sociologists, economists, public-health professionals and others expected at the meeting will take a closer look at how the recession has influenced the behavior and interactions of American families.