OPINION16 December 2014

Profiling the positives of Generation Rent


The assumption is often that when adult children are forced to live at home because of their finances it has a negative impact on families’ lives. But this isn’t necessarily the case says OMD’s Rian Shah.

OMD UK’s the Future of Britain study, launched in 2013, previously identified Generation Rent, a demographic of young adults who are unable to leave home while job-hunting or who are priced out of the house market.

A new research project from OMD UK and Time Inc. UK – 2014’s the Future of Families – delves further into Generation Rent and reveals that the trend of children being forced to stay in their parental home for longer is actually having a positive impact on families.

In the Future of Families study, which spoke to 4,000 Britons, 77% agree children will be living at home longer in the future. While one would assume that this means additional financial strains on the family household, it has also brought households closer and contributed to a mutual flow of family decision making and support.

  • 18% of families with children living at home say they don’t argue at all while 41% argue less than once a month
  • Children are as appreciative of family time as their elders with 67% of 16- to 24-year-olds holding family occasions close to heart compared with 67% of 35- to 54-year-olds
  • Children have become a source of emotional support for one in three parents
  • 36% of 16- to 24-year-olds have advised their parents on a major life decision.

The Future of Families research showed thoughts around Generation Rent were positive from both parents and grownup children, with high-level benefits for the household. Firstly, around a third of parents said having their adult children living at home actually eased financial strain as they were contributing to the household, helping out with rent, bills or groceries. In fact, only 15% of grownup children don’t help out financially, so there is often a financial net benefit to the household.

Secondly, there is increased emotional support within the family. Parents are consulting their children on decisions or relying on them for emotional support, with 36% of 16- to 24-year-olds advising parents on a major life decision. This trend looks set to grow as parents agreed they would be more reliant on grownup children for emotional support in the future.

Thirdly, Generation Rent has helped evolve family decision making into a more democratic process. Big financial decisions or purchases, from buying a car to booking a holiday, are more likely to be shared by the modern British family.

The Future of Families study showed that both parents and adult children saw very few drawbacks to Generation Rent, with the negatives, such as arguing over household chores, being the same if the children were 14 or 24.

Generation Rent creates an opportunity for brands to speak to households in a more sophisticated way. Often brands are still catering for archetypal household shapes, which don’t exist in 2014.

As well as identifying, and speaking to, more members of the modern family, brands also need to recognise family pressure points and help them, rather than tell them what to do. Brands need to create solutions and think about how you can help families make the most of their time together and help them feel in control.

With 60% of parents saying they would support children financially for as long as it takes, Generation Rent is here to stay.

Rian Shah is managing partner, strategy, OMD UK