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‘Boomerang Kids': Portraits of Millennials Living Back Home with Mom and Dad

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Mikey Billings, 29, Statesville, N.C.
Degree: B.A., Film studies, Full Sail University
Career Goal: Film or music industry
Current Job: Working part time at a malt shop
Student Loans: $80,000

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Jacqueline Boubion, 30, Diamond Bar, Calif.
Degree: B.A. Communications, California State University, Fullerton
Career goal: Film director 
Current job: Production assisting in commercials and music videos
Student Loans: None, but $22,000 in credit-card debt

According to the The New York Times Magazine, 1 in 5 people in their 20s and early 30s find themselves living with their parents. Photographer Damon Casarez contextualizes the struggle for independence in his series Boomerang Kids. Shot in 8 states and over 14 cities, the work is a revealing and compassionate story of Millennials in the United States. A recent graduate with an excessive amount of student loan debt himself, Casarez moved back in with his parents and was inspired to connect with others in his same situation. The perfect storm of economic crises places many young people in a surreal limbo of re-adolescence, the metamorphasis from teenager to independent adult no longer a straight line.

The desired goals and hope of a bright future are frequently in direct contrast to the harsh reality that surrounds graduates. Should one be embarrassed about moving in with their parents again? Is the decision a wise financial choice or simply delaying the inevitable of getting out on their own? With college tuition and debt burden skyrocketing, a competitive market, and an economy full of part-time jobs, questioning what you want feels a luxury. Even those who do manage to obtain a “starter” white collar job are barely able to make ends meet, the higher paying wages possibly never an option in the current climate. With uncertainty and challenge at every turn, there is a surprising endurance to Casarez’s home-bound heros.

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Adrianne Smith, 28, Seminole, Fla.
Degree: B.A., Psychology, University of Central Florida; M.S., Counseling, Nova Southeasern University
Career goal: Expanding her business
Current job: Entrepreneur and therapist (whose clients include autistic children)
Student Loans: $40,000 (for graduate school)

28-year-old Adrianne Smith was fortunate enough to secure a job as a behavioral analyst treating children who suffered with varying degrees of autism, but still found the job insufficient to pay her more than $40,000 of student loan debt. As Smith explained to the Times, moving back home with her parents in order to absorb start up costs has allowed her to built her own business for autism care. She nows runs her own clinic and has part-time therapists make house calls, declaring the choice to live at home “a business incubator”.

Though perhaps from a humble vantage point, Millennials are still striving for an idea of the American Dream. The long gone “land of opportunity” looks extremely different than that of their parents, but this current generation must navigate its waters anyway, producing innovative and uncertain methods of survival where sleeping in your childhood bedroom is an economically sound choice. The interim between university to adulthood is perhaps a bit longer, but in no way denotes failure. Despite the shaky ground, Boomerang Kids proves there is still a vision and possibility of something better.

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Annie Kasinecz, 27, Downers Grove, Ill.
Degree: B.A., Advertising and public relations, Loyola University, Chicago
Student Loans: $75,000

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Ari Hoque, 22, Brooklyn
Degree: B.A., Economics, Hunter College
Career goal: Banker
Current job: Rental-car-company worker
Student Loans: $12,000

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Alexandria Romo, 28, Austin, Tex.
Degree: B.A., Economics, Loyola University, Chicago
Career goal: Environmentalist
Current Job: Working at a corporate-security firm
Student Loans: $90,000

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Eric Curran, 23, Wahoo, Nebr.
Degree: B.A., history and religion, Midland University
Career goal: Professor of Lutheran theology or history professor
Current job: Education assistant at local public schools
Student Loans: $11,000

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Monica Navarro, 24, Escondido, Calif.
Degree: B.A., Literature and writing, University of California, San Diego. 
Career Goal: Librarian 
Current Job: Library volunteer, Home Depot Worker
Student Loans: $44,000

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Ashley Chang, 25, Queens
Degree: B.A., Comparative literature, Hamilton College
Career goal: Digital media manager
Current job: Digital-media analyst
Student Loans: $20,000

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Gabriel Gonzalez, 22, Suffern, N.Y.
Degree: B.F.A., Graphic design, School of Visual Arts
Career goal: Graphic designer
Current job: Graphic designer and production assistant
Student Loans: $130,000

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Jessica Meyer, 23, Pacifica, Calif.
Degree: B.A., Art history, Sonoma State University
Career goal: Veterinarian
Current job: Veterinary assistant
Student Loans: $27,000

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Lila Ash, 24, Washington Heights, N.Y.
Degree: B.F.A., painting, Rhode Island School of Design
Career goal: Cartoonist
Current job: Decorative finisher for an interior designer
Student Loans: $25,000

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Robert Shane Ellis, 29, Alhambra, Calif.
Degree: B.A., Asian humanities, University of California, Los Angeles
Career goal: Film director or actor
Current job: Looking for voice-over work; recently enrolled in an M.F.A. program
Student Loans: $10,000

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Sarah Van Eck, 24, Hendricks, Minn.
Degree: B.A., Biology, Northwestern College
Career goal: Social Worker
Current job: Dietary worker at a hospital
Student Loans: $50,000

  • gvanderleun

    I gotta say that if you are 22 and have somehow amassed a debt of $120,000 getting a degree in Graphic Design you are far too stupid to be a graphic designer in the first place.

  • Lockstein13

    Of all the “degrees” listed…MAYBE one of them *might* have a chance of getting somewhere in the future.

    ONE OF THEM.

    The rest?

    Like gvanderleun said, these suckers ASKED FOR IT, now they GOT it,
    but they’re whining that the REALITY isn’t cooperating with their fantasy.

    BOO FRIGGIN’ HOO.

    Hope they enjoy a long life of serving double latte macchiatos and large fries.
    What LOSERS.
    BY CHOICE.

  • Kevin_OKeeffe

    How many fucking jobs do people really believe there ARE, in the field of “graphic design?”

    I remember in the late 80s, I had a girlfriend who told me she was switching her major to graphic design, and I was like, “Huh? What’s that?” I thought she was going into some kind of CAD program, or whatnot, LOL!

  • Kevin_OKeeffe

    I can’t let this graphic design thing go. I remember several people telling me, back in my college years, that they were interested in pursuing “graphic design”-related courses of study. And I really had no idea what they were talking about, and when I asked, more than one of them answered “You know, like designing corporate logos and the like.” All I could think was, WHY IN THE HELL WOULD YOU WANT TO SPEND YOUR LIFE DOING THAT?!? And then it occurred to me; they want to do it because they think its going to be easy.

  • Lockstein13

    With rare exceptions, the photographs above all show these losers as CHILDREN.
    No, not just in their child’s room, but their pose, their expression, their…well…JUST ABOUT FREAKING EVERYTHING.

    And YET: they STILL wonder why – with their useless fields of study – they can’t (READ: WON’T) get a grown-up job.

    Think of it as a “facial tattoo” of the mind.

    Did I mention LOSERS?

  • Justin

    LOL, which one of these subjects did that? I don’t see that anywhere. If you are speaking of a hypothetical situation, then I agree. However, this article is NOT about your hypothetical notions of what “success” is.

  • Justin

    Lighten up, people. This is a great photo essay. All of these people have degrees. Some in more creative fields than others. All the subjects in this series display a sense of personal responsibility. Not only do they have jobs, but they have jobs within their chosen fields – so LAZINESS is not the issue. They all have a goal in mind and are working diligently to save up money – so LACK OF FORESIGHT and FISCAL IRRESPONSIBILITY is not the issue. They are, in fact, playing it smart. Rather than getting married and having children immediately after high school, buying a house with a mortgage they can’t afford, a car they can’t afford, a pet and lifestyle they cant afford – they SEE there situation clearly and decided not to put themselves in more fiscal danger. (Which I can’t say for most Americans whose lifestyles are sponsored by every credit card company and mortgage loan out there) This entire a serious situation that is bigger than “a choice” that a person made in studies. Its a matter of government and economy. Big business runs big government. With that, there are barely any funds allocated to the creative arts. Americans shouldn’t be told to “put up and shut up” when it comes to CAREER CHOICES. This isn’t Uzbekestan.

  • hetellsmehowbadlyiphotograph

    ‘Degree: B.F.A., Graphic design, School of Visual Arts

    Career goal: Graphic designer

    Current job: Graphic designer and production assistant

    Student Loans: $130,000′

  • Bradoplata

    How long ago did you move back in with your parents? j/k

    There are kids like these by the thousands. Who will make the major purchases to keep the economy moving? When will they marry and have kids? The economy and education system are broken, and these kids are the victims. Some of them willingly.

  • Lockstein13

    BULL! They do NOT have “jobs within their fields” with one or so exceptions…
    and THAT at an OUTRAGEOUS PRICE (not just $).

    And YES, LAZINESS *is* the theme of this series: LOOK AT THE ZOMBIES!
    “Creativity” is not “the issue”: but industriousness and resourcefulness ARE.

    Sucking off the teats of mom and pop is “playing it smart”?!? WTF?!?!?!?!?
    YOU ARE A MILLENNIAL or a hippie retread, without a doubt.
    Messed up sense of priorities and morals, in any case.
    Any more of your rationalizations, and America will soon RESEMBLE Uzbekistan.

  • Lockstein13

    Just had to mention a *great* article on the “work” topic related to these young folks.
    FROM: http://www.americanthinker.com/2014/07/back_to_work.html

    An excerpt:
    Like its religious counterpart, America’s secular version of sharia is enforced by true believers, who after demonstrating fealty by going deep into debt during college to acquire the proper indoctrination, go forth as credentialed liberal evangelists, trained to call in media strikes launched against rebel conservative positions by ruling class progressives from the safety of their gated coastal enclaves.

    The widespread substitution of indoctrination for education in America produces lots of young people who have been conditioned to believe that their inflated sense of self-worth and moral superiority are marketable skills. Unsurprisingly, many end up in politics, or working for non-profits and NGOs, or in civil service jobs — secular clerics all — called to redistribute other people’s money and proscribe unapproved
    thought or behavior with righteous gusto.”

  • http://nodws.com/ Nodws

    LMFAO! “Career goal: Environmentalist”
    poor girl

  • http://nodws.com/ Nodws

    lol yes, stay loan free so you can stay debt free

  • Justin

    You should ask those questions to congress. They keep bailing out big business and banks, so they’ll always survive. As far as the fabric of American society on Main Street, well, thats a great question. Sadly, this situation is a side effect of a much larger issue.

  • Justin

    Wow, for an adult, Im assuming, your grammar and argument comes across like that of a 13-year old. For starters, lets calm down.

    Do you think its smart for these people, who aren’t financially ready to just GO out there and screw themselves up worse than the generation before them? It IS a smart move to avoid financial traps. Of course its going to take longer for them to become stable because the cost of tuition, no matter its major is exhorbitantly high. Americans are living in a HOLE for starters. We buy homes, cars, and have children we cannot afford. Put on your thinking cap. But then again, its hard to reason with an ADULT troll like yourself who probably stalks comment sections for kicks. Sad to see what the older generations turned out to be. Tax cuts to your social security have you trolling the web for recreational activities. America, boy I tell ya.

  • Lockstein13

    Wow, Justin, I’m like a 13-year-old? YOU GROW UP, punk.

    NO ONE is asking them to “screw themselves up worse than the generation before”; these morons have screwed themselves sufficiently. Or didn’t you notice?!

    You are rationalizing the nature of a PARASITE; it must be in your natural reflexes to do so. Whether these folks above leech off mom and dad or the American taxpayer through welfare is immaterial. YOU PROMOTE THIS SLAVERY. Your attitude DISGUSTS ME. Your parents must be proud of your subservience; they are, aren’t they?!

    “We buy homes, cars, and have children we cannot afford.” SPEAK FOR YOURSELF, chump.
    LESSON #1: IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD IT, DON’T BUY IT.

    Your pre-pubescent spitballs fall short. Come back when you grow up…and no longer have debts you shouldn’t have incurred in the first place, fool.

  • ThomasD

    Is it impolite to note that anyone who charges you over $100k for a B.F.A. is a con artist?

    Because unless your surname is DuPont, Duke, Rockefeller, or some such, and you consider that sum to be pin money, you just got taken to the cleaners by a real professional.

    Not that you are the first, it’s been going on for decades. Just that up until recently colleges and universities have been able to somewhat mask the game by packing their own ranks with scads of managerial, and administrative posts.

    Only now they’ve reached critical mass and the whole ponzi scheme is about to come crashing down.

  • Lockstein13

    Justin needs a WAAAAAAAAHMBULANCE…stat!

    Listen, child, the Left loves to whine about “bailouts”…
    …ALL WHILE IT *DEMANDS* bailouts for itself,
    often rationalizing thier greedy wants as a “human right.”

    YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIFE LIBERTY and the PURSUIT (NOT the guarantee, child) OF HAPPINESS.

    Take THAT and shove it up your DOUBLE STANDARD.

    Oh yeah, and you can skip the SAD-EYED CLOWN pathos garbage about “it’s a much larger issue”…it’s NARCISSISM AND LETHARGY that are the hallmarks of your generation, as shown in these photos.

  • Keypapier07

    Hey Lockstein13! Nice comments but I have a little constructive criticism; capitalizing makes you look like a dummy. That and the words you chose. And the sentences you created. And the content of your arguments. Just rework it a bit and then you’ll be changing minds in no time!. Other than that you’re doing great! Keep up the good work!

  • Don Olson

    Seems that Lockstein13 has figured out that it doesn’t take a BFA in any type of arts, liberal arts, fine arts, craft arts to figure out that variations in font size garners reactions from opinionated posters such as yourself. In the age of millennial ‘gimme satisfaction now’, nothing succeeds more than fragmented sentences riddled with caplock emphasis. It is reminiscent of the graphic design approach of the last several years.

    ..and I bet he doesn’t owe 20k nor live with the ‘rents.

  • http://www.julianajaeger.net Juliana

    Did you actually read the captions? The majority of them do not have jobs anywhere near their fields of study or even their stated career goals.

  • http://www.julianajaeger.net Juliana

    Yeah, that $130k BFA in graphic design from a diploma mill — er I mean “proprietary university” — was like a punch in the nose. I just stared at the caption and questioned my sanity for a moment, because it seems like *nobody* would be gullible enough to fall for that.

    Your point is great, though. In earlier decades, colleges bloated the cost of tuition by expanding their athletics departments as much as possible. If for whatever reason that didn’t work or couldn’t happen, they took to that tactic of adding meaningless bureaucratic positions. High schools and even middle schools have been doing the same thing for the last thirty years.

    It’s part of why I’ve believed from the age of 10 onwards that it’s probably a dumb idea to sink tens of thousands of dollars into secondary education unless you’re aiming to be a doctor, engineer, research scientist, etc.

  • Anna Sefalik

    Poor us, devaluing the concept of working to find ways to protect our environment.

  • http://nodws.com/ Nodws

    go hug a tree, this is Murica!

  • Faux Lies

    I guess you don’t live in Toledo Ohio.

    Less Beck, more books!

  • http://www.lionfarmestate.co.uk Rob Clayton

    Great portraits; a difficult subject to convey and explore. What is fascinating about many of the comments below is that they are quite partisan in their rage. So the images have triggered some strong reactions from, what on the face of it, are ordinary, venancular, portraits. This is part of their power. The premise of the project is fascinating for me because it addresses some very serious issues of the 21st Century; corporate power in government, home ownership, class, education entitlement, expectations, globalisation, neo-liberalism. The west, particularly the UK faces similar problems particularly with housing where progress is in reverse and many educated young people may never afford a home, or indeed, have access to affordable rents. Maybe a final thought is how much do we expect our governments to influence and help our nations citizens have access to quality, affordable, living conditions? Is this no longer a concern for government at all?