It's another one of those phantom statistics that gets repeated over and over again - and which is almost certainly not true. Countless reporters grabbed onto the number because they saw it in other stories and no doubt assumed that those reporters had checked it out. Somebody must have checked it out, right? But PolitiFact has traced the 85 percent figure to the dubious findings of a Philadelphia-area company called Twentysomething. That is, a former company - Twentysomething went out of business, according to David Morrison, who says he was the president - and who admits that the survey is out of date.
The first mention of the 85 percent figure came in a CNNMoney.com report in November 2010: "Meet the boomerangers. This recession has hit young adults particularly hard," according to Rich Morin, senior editor at the Pew Research Center in D.C. So hard that a whopping 85 percent of college seniors planned to move back home with their parents after graduation last May, according to a poll by Twentysomething Inc., a marketing and research firm based in Philadelphia. That rate has steadily risen from 67% in 2006.
While Twentysomething was consistently cited as the source, the news accounts provided no details about the poll's methodology, sample size -- or even the dates the survey was conducted. The CNNMoney article was the only one that even indicated the reporter had spoken with Morrison. Reporters are taught to get details about a survey so that they can judge its validity. But if they had tried, they would have quickly found that no such information was available. There were no details about the poll on Twentysomething's website.
As we delved into Twentysomething's website, we began noticing oddities. The phone number for its headquarters in Philadelphia had been disconnected, and the website appeared not to have been updated since 2009 -- well before the 85 percent stories began appearing in the media. The staff page was particularly odd. The second person listed as a "core team member" on the firm's staff list was "Daniel Jay, vice president for client management," further described as "the visionary dude that brought herbal tea in the mainstream United States!"
Here's a local news report from late 2011 that cites the 85 percent number from "a recent study."