The last time this many Americans were living in multi-generational homes (or homes with multiple generations living under the same roof), most television shows were still black and white. At its lowest point in 1980, a little more than 12% of Americans lived in a multi-generational home. Since 1980, that number has steadily risen to more than 18% today. And even more staggering is that the number of individuals living in a multi-generational home since 1980 has nearly doubled from around 30 million to almost 60 million with the most dramatic spike coming post-recession from 2010 to now.
What are some of the reasons for this jump? As would make sense after a recession, most reasons are economic, but some are rooted in changes in American society.
Grandparents helping parents save.
While jobs have increased since the recession, wages have not. This can put younger families in a financial bind, and in many households, the older generation has come to the rescue. Having one or more retired family members living in the home can save on babysitting and cleaning costs. Plus, with the older generation taking care of things like dropping children off at school, picking them up, and cooking meals, it allows parents to have full-time jobs to ensure that the household is supported.
Continued home buying reluctance.
While homes are increasing in value and the market is gaining steam since the recession, many are still reluctant to jump into home ownership. This is especially true of young professionals who more acutely felt the sting of job layoffs and home foreclosures. So, it isn’t that surprising that as of 2012, younger people have now risen to overtake the older generation to become the majority of those sharing a home with another generation. The older generation tends to have homes that are paid off with mortgage payments--a thing of the past. They may also have larger homes that were purchased when the market was more favorable in decades past. By allowing their offspring to inhabit those extra rooms, they help them save money and become financially stable.
A new generation with different values.
Another reason why younger people have overtaken the older generation as those moving into multi-generational households is that they have different ideas about the importance of independence. Generations that had to break down societal barriers, such as women entering the workforce, tend to put high value on independence. Those values were passed to the Baby Boomers. Their children, Generation X with its “latchkey kids,” also tend to be independent. This belief has lessened, however, with Millennials as technology has helped keep young people and their parents connected and dependent on each other for support. With smart phones and social media, the walls between parents and their children have been knocked down, and true friendships between generations can form. This dependence and understanding lines up with the climbing trend in multi-generational households.
Immigrants bringing native culture.
As more and more people immigrate to the U.S., they need a place to live and the quickest and easiest choice is to move into the home of a family member who has already immigrated. But more than that, immigrants from Spanish-speaking cultures – who make up the majority of immigrants in the U.S. – as well as those from Asian countries come from cultures where multi-generational households are quite normal. In fact, 27% of Asian-Americans live in multi-generational households – the largest percentage for any ethnic group.
Whether spurred by financial or cultural factors, the rise of multi-generational households has been rapid and is showing no signs of slowing down. The next time you are walking through your neighborhood, you just may notice more houses with many generations helping each other navigate life in post-recession America. And it just might be the new norm.