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Veterans Affairs Disney

VA chief: 'I deeply regret' wait-time comparison to Disney

WASHINGTON (AP) — Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said Tuesday he regrets remarks he made comparing long wait times at VA health care sites to waiting in line at a Disney amusement park. “It was never my intention to suggest that I don’t take our mission of serving veterans very seriously,” McDonald said in a written statement. “If my comments Monday led any veterans to believe that I, or the dedicated workforce I am privileged to lead, don’t take that noble mission seriously, I deeply regret that. Nothing could be further from the truth.” McDonald’s statement came after a Republican senator called for his resignation and GOP lawmakers and veterans’ service groups slammed his remarks as insulting and inappropriate. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said McDonald’s “preposterous statement is right out of Never Never Land” and said the VA leader has shown he cannot ensure that veterans receive health care in a timely manner “Dismissing wait times when veterans can often wait months for an appointment is negligent and a clear sign that new leadership is needed at the VA,” Blunt said as he called for McDonald to step down. McDonald said at a breakfast Monday that the VA should not use wait times as a measure of success, comparing waits for VA health care to the hours people wait for rides at Disney theme parks. McDonald said a veterans’ health-care experience was more important than the time spend waiting for an appointment. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called McDonald’s comments “disgusting and beyond the pale,” although he stopped short of calling for him to step down. “This is not make-believe. This is not Disneyland, or Wonderland, for that matter,” Ryan told reporters. “Veterans have died waiting in line for their care.” Republicans said McDonald’s comments were especially egregious since he took office in 2014 after his predecessor was forced out amid a scandal over chronically long wait times at VA health care sites and reports that as many as 40 patients died while awaiting care at the Phoenix VA hospital. Similar problems were discovered at VA health sites nationwide, along with a widespread practice among VA employees of creating secret lists to cover up the long wait times and receive VA bonuses. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, a member of the Republican leadership, said McDonald’s comments were hard to believe. “When you go to Disneyland, you aren’t wondering if you are going to live long enough to make it to Space Mountain,” she said. Democrats called Blunt’s comment a blatant bid to boost his re-election chances. “Senator Blunt of all people should know another resignation at the VA will likely only make things worse,” said Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, Blunt’s likely Democratic challenger. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, who is known for his own verbal miscues, supported McDonald. Referring to himself as “an expert at wrong choice of words,” Reid said McDonald “could have done a better job talking about Disneyland, but he didn’t. He is a good man, he’s doing his best under very, very difficult circumstances. So I support Secretary McDonald all the way.” Reach Matthew Daly on Twitter at:

Congress Chemical Regulation

House approves bill to regulate toxic chemicals

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House on Tuesday easily approved a bipartisan bill that would for the first time regulate tens of thousands of toxic chemicals in everyday products from household cleaners to clothing and furniture. Supporters said the bill would clear up a hodgepodge of state rules and update and improve a toxic-chemicals law that has remained unchanged for 40 years. “Today marks a milestone — for this Congress and for the American people as we make great strides to update our nation’s chemical safety laws,” said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “This bill is good for jobs. It’s good for consumers. And it’s good for the environment.” The 403-12 vote in favor of the bill sends it to the Senate, where it’s expected to be approved and sent to President Barack Obama, who is expected to sign it. The bill, more than three years in the making, won support in recent days from a broad coalition that ranged from environmental and public health groups to the chemical industry and the National Association of Manufacturers. In a sign of the bill’s wide support, lawmakers from both parties heaped praise on the measure. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called it a “common sense” bill that will reduce risks to consumers and make “chemicals and products we use every day safer for Americans.” Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., said the bill “addresses the fundamental flaws” of the current law that expose the public to dangerous chemicals. “It is long past time that Congress update this law,” she said. Some environmental groups remained opposed, however, saying the bill did too little to protect consumers from dangerous chemicals that can cause cancer, nervous system disorders and other health problems. “Despite the best efforts of many lawmakers to redeem legislation that originated in the suites of the chemical industry, on balance the law Congress will send to the president’s desk continues to place chemical company interests above the public interest,” said Ken Cook, president of the Washington-based Environmental Working Group. Toxic chemicals have been linked to serious illnesses, including cancer, infertility, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. But under current law only a small fraction of chemicals used in consumer goods have been reviewed for safety. The bill approved Tuesday would set new safety standards for asbestos and other dangerous chemicals, including formaldehyde, styrene and Bisphenol A, better known as BPA, that have gone unregulated for decades. The measure would update the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act to require the Environmental Protection Agency to evaluate new and existing chemicals against a new, risk-based safety standard that includes considerations for particularly vulnerable people such as children and pregnant women. It also establishes written deadlines for the EPA to act and makes it harder for the industry to claim chemical information is proprietary and therefore secret. The manufacturers group said industry has “revolutionized the way chemicals are made and used” since the original toxics law was adopted in 1976, “yet the law has not been updated to keep up with those changes.” State laws enacted to fill the void have resulted in “a patchwork of confusing, often contradictory, regulations for manufacturers and consumers to navigate,” the manufacturers group said in a statement. “It is time to update our nation’s chemical laws.” “While not perfect, the bill meets the high goals set by the administration for meaningful reform,” the White House said in a statement Monday. The legislation is likely to restore public confidence in the safety of chemicals while improving public health and environmental protections, the White House said. A key sticking point in negotiations over the bill has centered on state regulation of toxic chemicals. California, Massachusetts, Vermont and other states have moved aggressively to regulate chemicals, and some Democrats said they feared the bill would block state efforts even as it imposed the first-ever national standards for tens of thousands of chemicals that have gone unregulated for decades. The 181-page bill declares that any state law or rule in place before April 22 would not be pre-empted by federal law. The legislation also would allow states to work on some regulations while federal rules are being developed, a process that can take up to seven years. States that do not regulate chemicals closely would follow the federal standard. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., said the bill includes a “regulatory pause” that prevents states from acting on some chemicals for up to 3 1/2 years while EPA reviews a chemical. Tonko called that “a core flaw in reform that cannot be ignored.” Supporters say they hope to win Senate approval later this week, with the goal of sending it to Obama’s desk by Memorial Day. Reach Matthew Daly:

France Google

French raid Google in latest probe into tech's tax tactics

PARIS (AP) — Police raided Google’s French headquarters Tuesday looking for evidence of “aggravated tax fraud,” marking one of Europe’s most conspicuous attempts yet to cast a U.S. technology leader as a manipulative scofflaw. The probe reflects an intensifying air of European indignation looming over Google and other U.S. tech companies as they amass huge amounts of cash while reducing their tax bills through complex maneuvers that shield their profits. As it has consistently done when confronted about its tax strategy, Google issued a statement Tuesday maintaining that it complies with all laws. The Mountain View, California, company, which is owned by Alphabet Inc., also said it is cooperating with the French investigation. Other major tech companies, including Apple Inc. and Facebook Inc., also have been skewered in Europe for scrimping on their tax bills as the popularity of their products and services have lifted their fortunes during the past decade. At the end of last year, the U.S. technology sector had stockpiled $777 billion in cash, accounting for nearly half of the $1.68 trillion held by non-financial companies in the country, according to a study by Moody’s Investors Service. Just five tech companies — Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft Corp., Cisco Systems Inc. and Oracle Corp. — accounted for $504 billion of that total. Nearly 90 percent of the cash held by those five companies is being kept in overseas accounts, a strategy that has rankled some U.S. lawmakers who want the money brought back to home so it can be taxed and help reduce the country’s deficit. It’s easier for tech companies to legally lower their tax bills than manufacturers because their businesses revolve around patents, algorithms and other intellectual property that’s easier to move around than a plant, says Steve Gill, a San Diego State University accounting professor issues. “When a company is making shoes, it’s pretty easy to tell where those shoes are being made,” Gill says. “That’s not the case with intellectual property. It doesn’t really matter where a contract or algorithm sits. Tax laws have failed to adapt to this kind of environment.” France’s investigation is focused on an Ireland subsidiary that enables Google to do business with customers across the European continent while minimizing its taxes — a technique known as profit-shifting. European regulators increasingly are pressing companies to pay taxes in the jurisdictions in which they do business. The mounting pressure prompted Google to agree to pay roughly $140 million (130 million pounds) in British back taxes earlier this year and make changes in how it calculates its U.K. tax bill. Apple reached a similar settlement in Italy late last year, agreeing to pay about $350 million (318 million euros) to resolve a dispute in that country. Italian authorities also have examined Facebook’s books to determine if the social networking leader should have been paying more taxes than it did. The French government hasn’t disclosed how much it believes Google might owe in back taxes, but it made an elaborate show of force in Tuesday’s raid. An anti-corruption unit and 25 information technology experts descended on Google’s Paris office, according to France’s financial prosecutor’s office. French daily Le Parisien, which first reported the news, said the raid took place at dawn and involved about 100 investigators. An Associated Press reporter at the scene saw officers still at the scene Tuesday afternoon. The investigation, which began last June, is focused on “aggravated tax fraud and organized money laundering,” France’s financial prosecutor’s office said in its statement. With all signs indicating more cash will be pouring into the technology industry, the sector seems likely to remain in the crosshairs of financially strapped governments seeking more tax revenue. “You look where you think there is money to look for,” says Richard Lane, a Moody’s senior vice president who tracks corporate cash flows. Liedtke reported from San Francisco.

Cheap Airfares

Fares are cheap; airlines don't want them to stay that way

DALLAS (AP) — Enjoy lower airfares while you can. Airlines are taking steps to push prices higher by next year. Fares have been dropping for more than a year. Taking inflation into account, the average round trip within the U.S. in late 2015 was the lowest since 2010. Ticket prices have fallen even further this year, according to the airlines. Not only is flying from Dallas to Denver cheap, but popular international vacation destinations like Europe are more affordable. Fliers can thank the steep plunge in oil prices since mid-2014. As they saved billions of dollars on jet fuel, both domestic and international carriers added supply — seats — faster than travel demand was growing. The major airlines have announced steps to rein in the oversupply, but such changes can’t happen overnight, so fares will remain affordable for the peak travel season. One downside: Be prepared to spend a few more hours of your vacation standing in an airport security line. The number of airline passengers this summer is expected to rise 4 percent over last year’s record level. That, along with fewer Transportation Security Administration screeners, is expected to create long lines. American Airlines and United Airlines say they each plan to spend about $4 million on contractors who will help TSA by handling some of the non-screening duties at airport checkpoints, like running bins and managing the lines. Stories about horrific lines might be an opportunity for last-minute deals, according to Pauline Frommer, editorial director of the travel guide company Frommer’s. “If American Airlines is going to spend $4 million of its own money, obviously the airlines are nervous about not being able to sell last-minute seats,” she said. “I wonder if this rash of bad publicity won’t make getting a last-minute booking more affordable.” Signing up for fare alerts from the airlines and price-tracking websites can help consumers spot those deals, many of which lapse quickly. Last week the price-tracking website spotted $688 round trips on British Airways and American leaving New York on July 6 and returning July 17. George Hobica, the site’s founder, said $1,200 would be more typical for peak season. The sale was gone after one day. If you don’t have kids in school, the easiest way to save money would be delaying a big trip until at least mid-August. “After that, we see fares drop off a cliff,” Hobica said. Within the U.S., the cost of an average round trip fell about 8 percent last year to $363, according to government figures. Through March, the average fare per mile was down 6 percent from early 2015, according to the industry trade group Airlines for America. Fares have fallen faster on international routes than on domestic ones, largely because the foreign airlines added of a glut of flights. U.S. airlines now get about $1.1 billion more from baggage and ticket-change fees than they did in 2010, although the percentage of revenue accounted for by airfares is unchanged at 75 percent. Faced with fuel costs that have gone back up since February, investors are now pressuring airlines to reverse the decline in fares by growing more slowly. Delta Air Lines said this month it will cut its planned growth more sharply as this year goes along. By the fourth quarter, Delta expects its passenger-carrying capacity will be 2.5 percent higher than late 2015. That would be down from 5.4 percent growth in the first quarter. United Airlines squeezed its planned 2016 growth by 0.5 percentage points, and American will slash its planned international growth this year to 2.5 percent from the original 6 percent. Those moves won’t make a dent in the number of seats available this summer, but they could gain traction — and boost fares — by next summer. Meanwhile, some airports have seen security lines stretch to more than one hour. With the blessing of Congress, TSA is hurriedly adding nearly 800 screeners and encouraging travelers to sign up for expedited-screening programs to make things go faster. It is unclear how much any of that will help when summer crowds show up. At big airports, travelers might save time by going through a checkpoint farther from their gate, said Keith Nowak of At Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Terminals A and C, where many domestic flights depart, can be crowded on weekday mornings, he said, and it could be quicker to go through security at another terminal and take the airport tram to your gate. Follow David Koenig at

National Business

Bayer Monsato

Monsanto rejects $62B Bayer bid, but still open to talks

NEW YORK (AP) — Monsanto rejected Bayer’s $62 billion takeover bid, calling it “incomplete and financially inadequate.” However, the seed company suggested Tuesday that a higher bid might be accepted, saying that it remains open to talks. Bayer replied it is committed to completing the deal. Monsanto Co. Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant also said in a written statement that the initial offer failed to address potential financing and regulatory risks. Bayer AG, a German drug and chemicals company, made an all-cash bid that valued Monsanto’s stock at $122 each. The company previously said that it planned to finance the acquisition with a combination of debt and equity, the latter to be raised largely by issuing new shares. It said late Tuesday that it is confident it can address any potential financing or regulatory issues related to the proposed deal. A combination of the two businesses would create a giant seed and farm chemical company with a strong presence in the U.S., Europe and Asia. Both companies are familiar brands on farms around the globe. Bayer’s farm business produces seeds as well as compounds to kill weeds, bugs and fungus. Monsanto, based in St. Louis, produces seeds for fruits, vegetables and other crops including corn, soybeans and cotton, as well as the popular weed-killer Roundup. After 2015’s blistering global buyout pace, 2016 is shaping up to be a sequel. There has been more than $494 billion in global deals already in 2016, the third highest of all time, and 2016 is just behind 2015 so far. The same drivers from 2015 exist this year. Mergers beget mergers, so when two companies in a sector combine, their competitors seek to do the same in order to compete. Low interest rates that make borrowing cheap, huge stockpiles of cash held by corporations, and a lackluster environment for organic growth continues to push global mergers. Monsanto shares closed regular trading up 3.1 percent at $109.30 and gained another 1.5 percent in after-hours trading, rising to $111.

Congress IRS Commissioner

House GOP gives election-year airing to IRS gripes

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans gave an election-year airing to their complaints about IRS chief John Koskinen Tuesday, telling a GOP-run House committee that he should be impeached for lying to lawmakers and destroying evidence. “Mr. Koskinen was sent to the IRS to clean it up but it’s gotten worse,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told the House Judiciary Committee, pressing a long-shot effort he’s led since last year to remove the agency’s commissioner. “As members of Congress, we have no reason to have any confidence that Mr. Koskinen will run one of the most powerful agencies with any integrity.” Koskinen and his Democratic defenders denied the allegations, with Democratic lawmakers accusing Republicans of pursuing a political vendetta. While the IRS has conceded that it treated conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status unfairly earlier this decade, Democrats said Republicans were ignoring previous investigations that have found the IRS’ destruction of some emails sought by Congress was due to incompetence, not a purposeful effort to hide evidence. “This resolution fails by every measure,” said Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the Judiciary panel’s top Democrat. “It arises from the worst partisan instincts. It is not based on the facts.” Citing recent travel, Koskinen declined to testify Tuesday but provided a written statement saying his agency “has responded comprehensively and in good faith” to congressional requests for documents. But in one measure of the nasty election year climate, Republicans on the committee refused to formally make Koskinen’s statement part of the record, with Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., calling it “self-serving.” Conservative antipathy toward the IRS intensified in 2013 when the agency conceded that it had made unusually intensive, time-consuming demands of tea party groups attempting to qualify for tax-exempt status. Though some progressive organizations experienced similar problems, conservative organizations were singled out more often, drawing GOP wrath. Chaffetz’ effort, co-sponsored by 73 conservatives, plays to those partisan passions. It’s won support from groups like the Tea Party Patriots, who emailed a fund-raising solicitation to supporters Tuesday that also urged them to press House GOP leaders to allow a vote on impeaching Koskinen. Party leaders and many GOP lawmakers have been cool to the drive against Koskinen. It’s unclear if House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will allow a vote to impeach him during an election year in which Republicans are trying to cast themselves as constructive. Even if the House votes to impeach Koskinen, it would take a two-thirds majority for the Senate to oust him — a margin Democrats could easily block. The impeachment drive focuses on how Koskinen responded to congressional GOP efforts to learn if conservative groups were targeted for political reasons. Republicans have made that allegation, but it remains unproven after several federal and congressional investigations. Chaffetz chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, one of the panels that has investigated the IRS. He faults Koskinen for not adequately responding to congressional subpoenas for all emails by Lois Lerner, who oversaw the IRS office that handled groups’ applications for tax exempt status. She was held in contempt of Congress after refusing to testify to a House committee and eventually retired. A hard drive on Lerner’s computer crashed in 2011 and IRS employees erased 422 backup tapes in 2014 that Chaffetz says contained potentially thousands of her emails. That has prevented Congress “from ever learning exactly how and why” the IRS acted against tea party groups, Chaffetz said. Koskinen also lied to Congress by asserting in 2014 that no emails were destroyed, and made little effort to recover the lost emails, Chaffetz says. Koskinen said that his assurances to lawmakers that all emails congressional investigators were seeking had been preserved — which turned out to be untrue — were made before he knew data containing the emails had been destroyed. He said his agency has spent more than $20 million and produced 1.3 million pages of documents — including 78,000 Lerner emails — responding to investigations. Democrats defended Koskinen, 76, who has had a long career in and out of government and took over the IRS in December 2013 after President Barack Obama named him to lead the agency away from the uproar over its actions. Koskinen’s term as commissioner expires in November 2017, 10 months into the next president’s term. This story has been corrected to reflect accusation by Democratic lawmakers, not Koskinen.

Twitter Changes

Coming soon to Twitter: More room to tweet

NEW YORK (AP) — Twitter is making some big changes, at least in the context of 140 characters or fewer. The social media service said Tuesday that in coming months, photos, videos and other media won’t count toward Twitter’s 140-character limit. Now, for example, when a user posts a photo, it counts for about 24 characters. That means slightly more wordy tweets are on the way. The change, announced Tuesday, is yet another attempt by the San Francisco company to make its messaging service easier to use, and to attract new users. Twitter did not, as many had speculated in recent months, abolish its character limit. Nor are weblinks exempt from the 140-character limit, which was also rumored. But replies to another user, which start with the “@” symbol and the user’s name, will not count against character limits. Names with the @ symbol in the middle of a tweet, however, will still count against the limit. And people will be able to retweet and quote their own tweets. In another change, any new tweet beginning with an @name will be seen by all followers. Previously, a tweet that started with a person’s handle did not become part of their feed. If a user wanted this to happen, they had to put a period before the @ symbol. Confusing? Some users thought so. Twitter has tried to keep all users happy, those for and against relaxing character limits, by sticking to the current count while allowing more freedom to express thoughts, or rants, through images and other media. Above all, Twitter Inc. hopes that the changes will re-ignite user growth. The company, which recently celebrated its 10th birthday, is dwarfed by its rival, Facebook. Its current number of users, about 310 million, trails even the professional networking service LinkedIn. Facebook has 1.65 billion users. Even though many people are familiar with Twitter, at least that it exists, the company has been unable to convert them to active users. Twitter remains hard to understand for many, with its own lingo of hashtags and symbols. The changes announced Tuesday are the latest put in place with hopes of spurring growth. “It’s a very user friendly change and it’s about time,” said Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter. While he said the changes are not likely to bring back users who have abandoned the site, new users might be less alienated. Abandoning the 140 character limit altogether would be going too far, he added. “They want to be purists and stick to the original vision,” he said “Baby steps. Let’s start with that.” Late last year, as it continued to struggle, Twitter brought back co-founder Jack Dorsey. In addition to staff and cost cuts, it launched a channel called “Moments” that brings together hot topics in one place. Earlier this year, it tweaked its timeline to show users tweets that they may have missed while they were away. Yet company shares continue to hemorrhage, falling almost 40 percent this year. Twitter’s stock hit an all-time low of $13.73 on Tuesday before recovering some ground. It ended the day down 38 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $14.03. AP Technology Writer Mae Anderson contributed to this report.

Millennials at Home

Goodbye, empty nest: Millennials staying longer with parents

WASHINGTON (AP) — Many of America’s young adults appear to be in no hurry to move out of their old bedrooms. For the first time on record, living with parents is now the most common arrangement for people ages 18 to 34, an analysis of census data by the Pew Research Center has found. And the proportion of older millennials — those ages 25 to 34 — who are living at home has reached its highest point (19 percent) on record, Pew analysts said. Nearly one-third of all millennials live with their parents, slightly more than the proportion who live with a spouse or partner. It’s the first time that living at home has outpaced living with a spouse for this age group since such record-keeping began in 1880. The remaining young adults are living alone, with other relatives, in college dorms, as roommates or under other circumstances. The sharp shift reflects a long-running decline in marriage, amplified by the economic upheavals of the Great Recession. The trend has been particularly evident among Americans who lack a college degree. The pattern may be a contributing factor in the sluggish growth of the U.S. economy, which depends heavily on consumer spending. With more young people living with their parents rather than on their own, fewer people need to buy appliances, furniture or cable subscriptions. The recovery from the 2008-09 recession has been hobbled by historically low levels of home construction and home ownership. Jennifer Post, 26, has been living with her parents in Villas, New Jersey, since dropping out of law school two years ago. A law career wasn’t a good fit for her, Post decided, and now she’s seeking a job in digital media or marketing. There aren’t many opportunities in Villas, a beach town. Even living at home, she said it’s been hard to save for a move to a bigger city after she was laid off from a baking job in March. Post spends her days on her laptop, sending resumes and refreshing LinkedIn and other job sites. To her parents, it looks as though she’s slacking off. “It’s definitely a generation gap,” she said. “I think they literally think I just sit down and watch Netflix all day.” As recently as 2000, nearly 43 percent of young adults ages 18 to 34 were married or living with a partner. By 2014, that proportion was just 31.6 percent. In 2000, only 23 percent of young adults were living with parents. In 2014, the figure reached 32.1 percent. The proportion of young adults living with their parents is similar to the proportions that prevailed from 1880 through 1940, when the figure peaked, Pew found. Yet in those decades, the most common arrangement for young adults was living with a spouse rather than with parents. “We’ve simply got a lot more singles,” said Richard Fry, lead author of the report and a senior economist at Pew. “They’re the group much more likely to live with their parents.” The typical U.S. woman now marries at 27.1 years old, the typical man at 29.2, according to census data. That’s up from record lows of 20.1 for women and 22.5 for men in 1956. “They’re concentrating more on school, careers and work and less focused on forming new families, spouses or partners and children,” Fry said. The shift may also be disrupting the housing market. One mystery that’s confounded analysts is why there aren’t more homes for sale. The lack of available houses has driven up prices and made it less affordable for many would-be purchasers to buy. Nela Richardson, chief economist at real estate brokerage Redfin, says one explanation for the sparse supply is that many baby boomers aren’t able to sell their family homes and downsize for retirement because they still have adult children living with them. Redfin surveyed homeowners ages 55 to 64 and found that one-fifth still have adult children at home. “It’s having a big effect on the housing market,” Richardson said. Among young men, declining employment and falling wages are another factor keeping many 18-to-34-year-olds unmarried, Fry said. The share of young men with jobs fell to 71 percent in 2014 from 84 percent in 1960 — the year when the proportion of young adults living outside the home peaked. Incomes have fallen, too: Wages, adjusted for inflation, plunged 34 percent for the typical young man from 2000 to 2014. Other factors contributing to more millennials living with parents range from rising apartment rents to heavy student-debt loads to longer periods in college. Many analysts had expected that as the economy improved, younger adults would increasingly move out on their own. That hasn’t happened. Jed Kolko, a senior fellow at the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at the University of California, Berkeley, says soaring rents are discouraging some from leaving their parents’ homes. Kolko’s research has found that the share of young adults living with parents in the first quarter of 2016 was essentially unchanged from two years earlier. Median rents nationwide were surging at a 6 percent annual pace as recently as August, though they have slowed since. In fast-growing cities like San Francisco, Denver, and Portland, Oregon, rents rose last year at a double-digit pace. Heavier student debt loads have sent more young people back to their parents’ nests, according to research by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Other economists aren’t convinced that student debt plays a dominant role. They note that the proportion of young adults without college degrees who live with parents is especially high: Nearly 39 percent of those with only a high school degree were living with a parent in 2014, up from around 26 percent in 2000. That compares with just 19 percent of young adult college grads living at home in 2014. That figure, though, is up sharply from 11 percent in 2000. Still, economists say most millennials appear to be delaying, rather than avoiding, marriage. Casey Marshella moved back in with her parents in Fairfield, Connecticut, after graduating from Boston University last year. Just this week, she moved into an apartment with her sister. Within weeks, she and a friend — who also lives with her parents — expect to find their own place. Marshella, 22, says living at home has helped her save money from her job as a human resources specialist. Because many people her age share the same circumstances, most sympathize with her. Still, Marshella says their first question is usually, “So when are you planning on moving out?” Contact Chris Rugaber at: AP Business Writer Joseph Pisani in New York contributed to this report.