Major changes have transpired in family household living arrangements during the past three decades, and these changes have accelerated during the Great Recession. Among the most significant is the revival of the multigenerational household. Since 1980, the number of persons living in multigenerational households has grown from 28 million to 49 million, 16% of the total US population.
Drawing on data from the US Census Bureau and their own public opinion surveys, the Pew Research Center has published a 26-page study on The Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household. Some of the report’s salient conclusions are:
• In 2008, an estimated 49 million Americans, or 16% of the total U.S. population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation. In 1980, this figure was just 28 million, or 12% of the population.
• This 33% increase since 1980 in the share of all Americans living in such households represents a sharp trend reversal. From 1940 to 1980, the share of Americans living in such households had declined by more than half (from 25% in 1940 to 12% in 1980).
• The growth since 1980 in these multi-generational households is partly the result of demographic and cultural shifts, including the rising share of immigrants in the population and the rising median age of first marriage of all adults.
• But at a time of high unemployment and a rising foreclosures, the number of households in which multiple generations of the same family double up under the same roof has spiked significantly. Our report finds that from 2007 to 2008, the number of Americans living in a multi-generational family household grew by 2.6 million.
• This trend has affected adults of all ages, especially the elderly and the young. For example, about one in five adults ages 25 to 34 now live in a multi-generational household. So do one-in-five adults ages 65 and older.
• After rising steeply for nearly a century, the share of adults ages 65 and older who live alone flattened out around 1990 and has since declined a bit. It currently stands at 27%—up from 6% in 1900.