The rise of extended-family households in America

New data shows that more Americans are now living with their families:

Almost 1.2 million of the [Washington D.C.] region’s 6 million residents were living with extended family members and friends last year, a 33?percent rise over the past decade. Nationwide, according to recently released 2010 Census statistics, at least 54 million people are in a similar spot.

The figures represent a significant reversal in American lifestyles after decades in which extended-family households fell into disfavor and the nuclear family flourished in the suburbs.

“We haven’t seen anything like this since the Depression,” said Frances Goldscheider, a Brown University sociologist who has studied families and living arrangements. “Overwhelmingly, it’s the recession’s effect on people’s ability to maintain a house. You have the foreclosures on one hand, and no jobs on the other. That’s a pretty double whammy.”…

Although the faltering economy is a major factor in the newfound togetherness, demographers and sociologists say the recession accelerated a shift that was already underway. Fueling the trend: baby boomers caring for aging parents, and the arrival of millions of Hispanic and Asian immigrants, who are more likely to live among several generations under one roof.

On one hand, the article suggests demographic shifts are responsible for this change: growing numbers of immigrants plus the Baby Boomers getting older. On the other hand, the recession has made it more difficult to set up independent households. I assume there has to be some research out there that separates out these different effects and could predict whether this trend will reverse when the American economy improves.

It would be interesting to ask these family members who are living together several questions:

  1. Is this what you had envisioned as family life?
  2. Is the current situation (living with family) good, bad, neutral, etc.?
  3. Would you like to continue living this way if the economy significantly improves?

And years into the future, how exactly will these family members remember these experiences?

More multigenerational and multifamily households due to economic troubles

The shift away from multigenerational households toward the nuclear family living in a single-family home is an important piece of American culture. However, certain conditions, such as the recent economic crisis, can lead to more multigenerational and multifamily households as people lose the ability to maintain separate households:

It’s happening at a historically high rate, according to new Census Bureau estimates. Nearly 500,000 such folks moved in with family over the past two years, compared with some 400,000 in the 25-to-34 age group traditionally known for returning to live with parents. Together, the two groups drove an 11.4 percent increase in the number of U.S. households containing extended families.

Indeed, the downturn has pushed more people of all ages to cohabit. The total number of multifamily households, including nonrelated roommates, has risen 11.6 percent — to 15.4 million — since 2008. But the surge’s impact is especially profound among the older adults, accelerating a pattern begun during the 2000 recession: 3.4 million more Americans ages 35 and older have moved in with relatives over the decade. Their numbers increased twice as fast as the age group’s population.

Whether this is a long-term trend remains to be seen. It could be that once the economy improves, people will leave these multifamily households and set off on their own again.

But there can be distinct advantages to multigenerational households in addition to pure economic reasons. The young and the old can learn from each other. All ages can provide certain services/duties that households need. Children can have more family members to support them. The typical American household of the last century is not the household that many cultures have had throughout history nor is it guaranteed to be the only household form in the future.

h/t Instapundit