Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Emptying the Nest...with Cash Incentives

There was an interesting article the other day about kids who take a long time to leave home: The Italian government is paying young people to move out of their parents' houses. Perhaps not surprisingly, 67 percent of the homebodies are guys:
Up until last month, Fernando, who is 33, lived with his parents. When there were no temporary job openings (which is usually the case in his small town in southern Spain), his days were devoid of any activity more strenuous than playing video games. Around noon, he’d roll out of the same bunk bed he used to share with his younger brother and plop down in front of the computer monitor. There he’d remain until called to lunch by his mother. Most often Fernando would skip Spain’s greatest invention —the midday siesta— because, well, there are only so many hours in the day to play “Doom.”

[...]Italy’s government will offer young Italians money to leave home. Most of that cash will be going to men, as they make up 67 percent of those staying alla casa. Close-knit family takes on a whole new meaning when you consider that eight out of 10 Italians under 30 still live at home, and the average age for moving out is 36.
The article goes on to quote a TV quiz-show host who still hasn't moved out of his parents' house at the age of 42 (and yes, he has a girlfriend). His reason for staying? “I have never felt the need to move. The reason is not because of money, it is because I love them." Sure, a lot of twentysomethings in America seem to be putting off adulthood, but this is taking things to extremes, isn't it? (Some people must think so, as a derogatory phrase, mammoni--mama's boys--has been coined to describe the stay-at-home types.)

There are plenty of reasons to leave home upon reaching adulthood, but perhaps the main one is that this independence helps one become an adult. Sure, the parents can provide a variety of safety nets, but never staying at home into one's twenties can severely retard the developmental process. And, as an Italian politician notes, leaving the nest hurts the whole nation because it provides for “little movement either geographically, socially, or professionally and little propensity to risk.” Others contend that low Italian wages and a high cost of living are to blame; the young people simply can't afford a place of their own.

And here's one more interesting observation: According to an article in the (U.K.) Daily Telegraph, “Many other Italians happily send their laundry home to their mothers, and 43 percent, when they do finally move out, rent or buy homes less than a mile from their parents.” Indeed, the article describes some of the parents as "clingy" and suggests that they might be using money to bribe their kids to stay at home longer.

Read the whole thing (including the comments.)

Do these punishments really fit the crime? The fine for a bus driver who was drunk on the job: $482. The fine for a woman accused of illegally downloading music: $222,000. (Hat tip: Lileks, at buzz.mn.)

Would you like X with that? There was a toy recall of sorts in Sydney this week, but i has nothing to do with China or lead; someone tried to smuggle Ecstacy tablets from Ireland to Australia by hiding them inside a Mr. Potato Head toy.

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