Multigenerational Households a Lasting Trend?

December 17, 2013

The recession set off a new wave of multigenerational households, which began to increase in late 2007. Fewer new households were created as more people doubled up to ride through economic hard times. College grads moved back home, and aging parents moved in with family. 

But as the economy has improved, researchers are taking note that many of the households are not breaking up. 

“While many families came together because of the economy, they stayed together by choice,” says Donna Butts, the executive director of Generations United, which published a report called “Family Matters: Multigenerational Families in a Volatile Economy.” Of the multigenerational households examined by the study, 66 percent cited economic problems as the cause for originally doubling up.

“People expect stress from this arrangement, but they don’t expect the benefits,” Butts says. “The downside is that our culture is so focused on independence that pushing against the culture is considered shameful. I tell them, wake up and smell the demographics.”

These multigenerational households have been called “shrinking households” or “missing households” by economists. But social scientists say it may be a lasting trend: these living arrangements are common among many ethnic groups, and it was typically how families lived decades ago, The New York Times notes. 

Homes are being reconfigured to make room for more people living under one roof. For example, some builders are debuting floor plans that include semi-independent suites with separate entrances, bathrooms, and kitchens to reflect the growth in multigenerational households. More buyers are also saying that they’d pay extra for a home with an in-law suite, according to the 2013 Home Features Survey by the National Association of REALTORS®.

Source: “Together Again: Multigenerational Households on the Upswing,” The New York Times (Dec. 13, 2013)

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