A bit of a debate is raging in the Youth Allowance post about how dependent students are on other members of their family. Sinclair points out that most 15-24 year olds live with their parents. Based on a mix of census and DEST data, I have estimated in the past that around 60% of late teen uni students live with one or both parents. Of those at home, they are an affluent bunch: median household income is $104,000 a year.
But how much sharing goes on within the household? The AVCC/Universities Australia student finances survey asked this question, referring to parents and partners. For ‘often’ relying on non-cash assistance, for full-time undergraduates:
Use of car: 31%
38% of full time undergraduates classed themselves as ‘financially independent’.
The 2006 General Social Survey found that of the people who had children aged 18 to 24 living away from home, 58% provided them with support:
Common types of support provided for children aged 18 to 24 years were money to pay bills or debt (30%), money to help pay rent and housing costs (21%), money for food (19%), driving them places (19%), letting them borrow the car (16%) and paying for educational expenses (15%).
On these figures, it is hard to agree in sociological terms with Conrad’s suggestion that people aged 18 or more be considered ‘independent’, though he wasn’t necessarily suggesting that they get welfare as a result.
Young full-time students, who have not had a chance to build savings, are almost all going to be partially dependent on someone else if they are to avoid severe poverty. The question is whether that someone should be their family, the state, a lender, or some mix of the three.
Sinclair says the solution to poverty is getting a job, but more than that it has been being a member of a family where someone (or several people) worked. I prefer this voluntary arrangement to tax-financed transfers. It’s probably better than lending too, as a sort of intra-family transfer of income around the life cycle.
So I think it is probably ok to abolish the independent living at home category, and only provide welfare to those families that cannot afford these intra-family income transfers.