The Resurgence of Multigenerational Households

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Young adults typically set a goal of breaking away from their parents to start a life of their own, independently. 

But times are a changin’, as the song goes. 

Multigenerational households are popping up in neighborhoods across America. The factors are two-fold (though intertwined): The COVID pandemic, coupled with economic concerns. 

The Pew Research Center notes that the number of 18- to 29-year-olds living with their parents this year rose from 47 percent in February 2020 to 52 percent in July 2020. Those numbers surpassed the peak set during the Great Depression. 

“We see families turning to each other in difficult times,” Jaia Peterson Lent, deputy executive director of Generations United, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., told the Christian Science Monitor

“During COVID we’re seeing families come together for a variety of reasons — it may be caregiving, it may be a way for social connections during a time of lots of isolation.” 

The piece notes that experts believe the long-term increase in multigenerational households is due to a combination of demographic changes. They include lack of employment or lesser wages, a rise in student debt, and a cultural shift about living with your parents. 

The stereotypical joke about living in your mom’s basement no longer fits the reality of Americans placing priorities on health and finances over living independently. 

A multigenerational home may now include a guest apartment with its own kitchen and bedroom, or a guest house on the property. 

But the trend isn’t only about COVID and a financial pinch. The percentage of the U.S. population living in multigenerational families has grown steadily since the 1980s, notes the piece in the Christian Science Monitor. It hit a record 20 percent of the population — 64 million people — in 2016, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center report. (Pew defines multigenerational households as those with two or more adult generations or with grandparents and grandchildren under age 25). 

The reasons are clear: it strengthens family bonds and relationships and assures family safety, along with the financial benefits. 

“We reflect often back on 2009 and what we saw then was many families were coming together out of necessity,” Peterson Lent of Generations United told CSM. “They stayed together by choice because of the desire to maintain those connections.”

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