Recession Increases Multigenerational Homes

A new fact sheet from AARP’s Public Policy Institute indicates a sharp rise in multigenerational homes between 2008 and 2010. The leap from 6.2 million multigenerational homes to over 7 million American households in 2010 is significant – there was faster growth in those two years than in the previous eight years combined.

AARP used the Current Population Survey (CPS) for the report to look at growth in homes comprised of multiple generations:

Total U.S. Multigenerational Households: 

1. Householder, child, and grandchild (2.5 million in 2010)

2. Householder with parent (2.2 million in 2010)

3. Householder with parent and child (1.2 million in 2010)

4. Householder with grandchild (1.1 million in 2010)

5. Householder with parent, child and grandchild (68 thousand in 2010)

6. Householder with parent and grandchild (25 thousand in 2010)

Source: AARP Public Policy Institute. Multigenerational Households are Increasing, April 2011.

It’s interesting to note that in 2000, there were 5 million households with more than one generation. Over the next 8 years the number rose to 6.2 million….and in 2010, 7.1 million (6.1% of all households in the U.S.) So, clearly, something happened around 2008. Is it a coincidence that those years mark the economic downturn? I don’t think so.

Financial challenges, housing crises and other issues have caused families to come together and combine living resources. It’s what families have always done in tough times – multigenerational living isn’t new. But the most interesting part of this phenomenon is not just the jump in the past several years…it’s the decrease in the last century followed by the current upswing.

According to a recent Pew Research Center report, the percentage of older adults living in multigenerational households actually decreased during the 20th century. In 1900, 57% of Americans age 65+ lived in homes with their children, grandchildren or other family members. By 1990 that number was down to just 17%. I’m sure that during the depression those numbers remained fairly high. But after WWII the GI’s came back and took advantage of the “GI Bill”, education opportunities and new industries. People moved, we became less agriculturally centered and families began to spread out. Our mobile society made for more long-distance family relationships.

But now we find ourselves in very challenging economic times indeed. Perhaps the most difficult since the Great Depression. And what are families doing? They are coming together once again. Our families are our safety net.  It seems that 21st century Americans are returning to our multigenerational family roots.

As baby boomers age, and family caregiving needs increase, I believe we will continue to see these numbers rise.  They will also grow as our country’s multicultural segments increase, many of which have strong traditions of multigenerational living. And as we see more grandparents stepping in to raise their grandchildren, they, too, will contribute to rising multigenerational households.

Multigenerational living can be rewarding for everyone in many ways, but it can also have its challenges. Stay tuned for more on my tips on successfully combining households…and generations!