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.