Statistics Netherlands (CBS) estimates that fewer young people are moving to university towns. Does this imply that the student loan system is causing students to live at home for a longer period? Perhaps, but that can’t be determined based on these figures.
At the start of the new year, a NOS (Netherlands Broadcasting Authority) headline proclaimed ‘More students decide to live at home’. Other national media had similar headlines: Young people are waiting longer before striking out on their own and choosing rented accommodations. Virtually everyone has singled out the introduction of the student loan system as the cause.
Less young people
But is this conclusion correct? Let’s take a look at figures provided by Statistics Netherlands. Their press release on 2 January stated ‘Again, fewer young people move to university towns’. In that press release, Statistics Netherlands stated that from July through October 2016, fewer young people moved to another municipality compared to the same period last year.
From July through to October 2016, the number of young people between 17 and 22 moving to a different municipality in the Netherlands dropped by 6.5 percent compared to the same period last year. Statistics Netherlands also observed a drop of 14 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year. Almost all of the university towns saw fewer new young people arriving and the 9 percent drop in these cities is somewhat higher than the national average of 6.5 percent.
The conclusion that students continue to live at home was drawn too hastily. These figures only apply to people between 17 and 22 who relocate to a new municipality. First of all, not every 17- to 22-year-old is a student. Statistics Netherlands’ figures also include employed young people and school pupils (and we’re not necessarily even referring to students at a university of applied sciences here).
Furthermore, the claim that they continue living at home or wait longer before moving into rented accommodations is also debatable. For example, the figures provided by Statistics Netherlands don’t identify individuals who are the main tenants or home owners. It’s entirely possible that 17 to 22- year-olds who do move, move with their parents. A 19-year old who moves to a new city with his or her parents is also registered in the new municipality. There were also no figures available on relocating within the same municipality. A young person could now be living independently in the same municipality where he or she first lived at home.
No hard evidence
And then there’s the alleged cause: the introduction of the student loan system. Is that why fewer young people are moving to another municipality? It appears this may be the case. University towns show a greater drop than other cities. The period examined by Statistics Netherlands – July through October – is exactly when students move into rented accommodations.
The drop in numbers manifested itself just when the first generation of students commenced their studies without the basic grant. Also remarkable is that this is the only age group where the number of relocations to other municipalities fell, while there was an increase in the number of people from all other age groups who moved to a new city.
There’s still a lack of hard evidence. “Surely the student grants and loans system is a factor in all this”, said UvA professor and Statistics Netherlands Chief Demographer Jan Latten to de Volkskrant newspaper. “However, we didn’t inquire about specific causes.”