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Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household | Healing Talks
Published On: Sun, Oct 16th, 2011

Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household

Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household

Return of the


Family Household

By Nathan Batalion CTN, Global Health Activist, Healingtalks Editor

(Healingtalks) What do statistics about family households have to do about ‘healing?”

Actually a lot!  The video below also covers some of the health issues.

The reason is that healing is simply a process of connection to wholeness.

Our modern commercial society is geared to service financial aims that create a rat race and certain other conditions that can undermine and actually break up the healthy coherence of society. A major sign of such a breakdown is not merely rising poverty and the destruction of the middle class. It is also that the single person living alone has for nearly the entire century been one of the fastest rising social statistics.

Loneliness breeds depression and ultimately illness. So does the stress of living in that kind of a society.

Said without mincing words, for decades our social structure has been falling apart at the seams for a long time.

There are deep reason why this happens in our form of dominantly commercial society, such as the requirements of such an environment for individual mobility to take jobs just about anywhere where a higher salary is offered.

Ultimately (and this is a bit philosophical) mathematics (which price-tagging represents and where price-tagging creates a commercial society)….such “mathematization’ of our world  involves using math symbols which I define as the most universal symbols for the separation of all element of consciousness. A deep negative impact of universally mathematizing everything and everywhere in our lives socially is to create the conditions for separations, for the disintegrating and tearing apart the ecological as well as social fabric of our world.

This is quite a revolutionary statement.

This is something we are almost never taught by our education system or by both liberal and conservative politicians. The latter both want to continue our commercial society… just with different ways of distributing the by products or wealth. They don’t advocate a different kind of society.

But as we indeed face a serious breakdown (long-term recession with no end in sight)  there has been a rise of people (especially families) working more closely together with each other (cooperatively rather than competitively).

There is a rise, in essence, of connective = healing social consciousness.

Back at the Turn of the 19th Century

Before the dominant rise of our industrial/commercial society, when America was still primarily agrarian, extended families living together were commonplace.  People were lured from open fields of nature to office and factory cubicles – symbolic of separative consciousness. The trend since then has been for a constant decline in multi-generational and extended households, that is until recently.

This is a tremendous sign of revitalization and a potential turnaround.

As our competitive economy falls apart, strangely people might have a better life! They may buy less toxic drugs that promise illusionary health. They may order less optional surgery, endure less chemotherapy (things we are lured into by corrupt commercial forces)  and in many other respects we may actually lead healthier, less rat-racing, stressful and more vital lives. Some may have far more stress as they become unemployed, but not all is gloomy across the board.

Trend Reversal

Here are the Living in Multi-generational Family Household stats where we see the trend reversing.

Indeed the  multi-generational American family household is staging a comeback — driven in part by the job losses and home foreclosures of recent years but more so by demographic changes that have been gathering steam for decades.

As of 2008, a record 49 million Americans, about 1/6th of the  total U.S. population (from about 300 million people in total)  lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data.1

This represents a significant trend reversal.

Starting right after World War II, the extended family household fell out of favor with the American public. In 1940, about a quarter of the population lived in one; by 1980, just 12% did. A range of demographic factors likely contributed to this decline, among them the rapid growth of the nuclear-family-centered suburbs; the decline in the share of immigrants in the population; and the sharp rise in the health and economic well-being of adults ages 65 and older.

Since bottoming out around 1980, however, the multi-generational family household has mounted a comeback. The reversal has taken place among all major demographic groups, and it, too, appears to be the result of a mix of social and economic forces.

One is the change in the median age of first marriage. The typical man now marries for the first time at age 28 and the typical women at age 26. For both genders, this is about five years older than it was in 1970. One byproduct of this cultural shift is that there are more unmarried 20-somethings in the population, many of whom consider their childhood home to be an attractive living situation, especially when a bad economy makes it difficult for them to find jobs or launch careers.2

Another factor has been the big wave of immigration, dominated by Latin Americans and Asians, that began around 1970. Like their European counterparts from earlier centuries, these modern immigrants are far more inclined than native-born Americans to live in multi-generational family households.3

However, the trend reversal has also played out among native-born Americans. And for all groups, the move into multi-generational family households has accelerated during the Great Recession that began at the end of 2007. The Pew Research analysis of census data finds that in 20084, 2.6 million more Americans were living in such a household than had been doing so in 2007.

Who lives in multi-generational households?

While the phenomenon has grown more prevalent in recent years among virtually all major demographic groups, the incidence levels vary considerably by age, race, ethnicity and gender. A rundown:

Older Adults

Older adults were once by far the likeliest of any age group to live in a multi-generational family household. Back in 1900, fully 57% of adults ages 65 and older did so. But over the course of the 20th century, older adults grew steadily healthier and more prosperous as a result of a range of factors, including the enactment of social safety net programs such as Social Security and Medicare and improvements in medical care.

With these changes came what amounted to a new intergenerational social contract within most families — namely, that older adults who had the health and resources to live independently should do so. By 1980 and 1990, just 17% of those ages 65 and older lived in a multi-generational family household. Since then, however, the trend has reversed course and the share has risen slightly — to 20%.

One possible explanation for the recent trend reversal is an increase in what demographers refer to as “kin availability.” The outsized Baby Boom generation is now passing through late middle age. Compared with earlier generations, it offers its elderly parents about 50% more grown children with whom they can share a household if and when their life circumstances (such as widowhood, declining health or poverty) take them in that direction. Another possible explanation is that cuts to Medicare enacted in 1997 have increased the financial incentives for those who are elderly and infirm to move in with a grown child who is able to take on the role of informal caregiver.5

When two adult generations of the same family live under the same roof, the older adult is the head of the household in about three-quarters of all cases, according to the Pew Research analysis of Census data. However, when the parent is 65 or older, the share drops. In 2008, a total of 6.6 million older adults lived in a household with one or more children. Of this group, 58% were themselves the household head, while in 42% of the cases, their grown child was the household head.

Young Adults

Older adults are not the age group most responsible for the overall trend reversal since 1980. That distinction belongs instead to young adults — especially those ages 25 to 34. In 1980, just 11% of adults in this age group lived in a multi-generational family household. By 2008, 20% did. Among adults 65 and older, the same share — 20% — lived in such a household in 2008. However, the rise for this group has been less steep. Back in 1980, 17% lived in a multi-generational family household.

As noted above, the trend toward older median ages for first marriage is a big part of this long-term shift among younger adults. But in recent years, the economy appears to have played a significant role. Just from 2007 to 2008, the share of adults ages 25 to 34 living in such households rose by a full percentage point, from 18.7% to 19.8%.

According to a recent Pew Research Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data, as of 2009 some 37% of 18- to-29-year-olds were either unemployed or out of the workforce, the highest share among this age group in nearly four decades. In addition, a 2009 Pew Research survey found that among 22- to 29-years-olds, one-in-eight say that, because of the recession, they have boomeranged back to live with their parents after being on their own.6


The increase in the share of young adults living with their parents is notable for another reason: its gender profile. The 25-34 age group is the only one in which significantly more men than women are living in a multi-generational family household. Among older age groups, this living arrangement is much more common among women than men. At the later stages of the life cycle, this disparity is partly explained by the fact that women are more likely than men to outlive a spouse, at which point they become more likely candidates to live with a grown child.

Race and Ethnicity in Multi-Generational Family Households

Hispanics (22%), blacks (23%) and Asians (25%) are all significantly more likely than whites (13%) to live in a multi-generational family household.

The rates of three of these four groups have increased significantly since 1980, with blacks the lone exception. However, the rates of all four groups have gone up from 2006 to 2008 — a time when the recession brought on a wave of joblessness and foreclosures.

Types of Multi-Generational Family Households

Of the 49 million Americans living in a multi-generational family household, 47% live in a household made up of two adult generations of the same family (with the youngest adult at least 25 years of age); another 47% live in a household with three or more generations of family members; and 6% are in a “skipped” generation household made up of a grandparent and grandchild, but no parent.

There are significant differences by race and ethnicity in the makeup of these various types of multi-generational family households.

Among whites living in a multi-generational family household, 64% are in a two adult-generation household, 28% are in a three-generation household and 7% are in a skipped- generation household.

Among Latinos, 48% are in a three-generation household, 47% are in a two-generation household and 4% are in a skipped-generation household.

Among blacks, 48% are in a two-generation household, 40% are in a three-generation household and 13% (the highest share for this category) are in a skipped-generation household.

Among Asians, 55% are in a two-generation household, 43% are in a three-generation household and just 1% are in a skipped-generation household.

Living Alone – Ten-fold Rise!

The multi-generational household isn’t the only growth sector in the national landscape of living arrangements. There’s also been a steady long-term rise over the past century of the single person or separative household.

In 1900, just 1.1% of Americans lived in such a household. By 2008, that share had risen to 10.3%.

Here, too, there are significant variances by age. Among young adults (ages 18 to 24), just 4.6% live in such households, down from a peak of 5.7% in 1980. Among adults ages 65 and older, the numbers are much larger but they have declined from a recent peak. In 1900, just 5.9% of adults in this age category lived alone. That share rose steadily over the course of the last century, eventually peaking at 28.8% in 1990. Since then it has retreated a bit. As of 2008, it stood at 27.4%.

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted last year, adults ages 65 and older who live alone report they are not in as good health and are more likely to feel sad, depressed or lonely than are older adults who live with another person (be it a spouse or some other family member). Chapters 2 and 3 of this report will explore those findings in greater detail.

Also, a separate Pew Research survey taken in 2005 found that a majority of the public (56%) considers it a “family responsibility” for adult children to take into their home an elderly parent who wants to live with them. A sizable minority — 39% — said this isn’t really a family responsibility. Attitudes varied sharply by the age of the respondent. Two-thirds of adults ages 40 and under said it was a family responsibility, compared with just 38% of adults ages 60 and over.7

Read the full report for more details.

  1. Of the 49 million, 23.2 million are in family households with two adult generations (with the youngest adults ages 25 or older); 23.1 million are in households with three or more generations; and 2.8 million are in a household with a grandparent and grandchild. For more about these categories, see Appendix A.
  2. See Greg Kaplan, “Boomerang Kids: Labor Market Dynamics and Moving Back Home,” Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Working Paper 675 (October 2009).
  3. Some 18.8% of people living in immigrant households in the U.S. live in a multi-generational family household, compared with 14.2% of people in native-born households, according to a Pew Research analysis of data from the Census Bureau’s 2009 Current Population Survey. Interestingly, however, among the nation’s two largest immigrant groups by race and ethnicity – Hispanics and Asians – the native-born households of these groups have a slightly higher tendency to be multi-generational families than the foreign-born households.
  4. 2008 is the most recent year for which data are available from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
  5. Engelhardt, Gary V., and Nadia Greenhalgh-Stanley. “Public Long-term Care Insurance and the Housing and Living Arrangements of the Elderly: Evidence from Medicare Home Health Benefits.” Chestnut Hill, MA: Center for Retirement Research at Boston College (December 2008). Orsini, Chiara. “Changing the Way the Elderly Live: Evidence from the Home Health Care Market in the United States.” College Park, MD: University of Maryland (February 2007).
  6. See Pew Research Center report, “Millennials: Confident.Connected.Open to Change.” Feb 24, 2010.
  7. See Pew Research Center Social & Demographic Trends report, “Baby Boomers Approach Age 60: From the Age of Aquarius to the Age of Responsibility,” Dec. 8, 2005.

Based on a posting by Pew Social Trends Staff


Keywords: multi-generational family, multi-generation family, multi-generation, multi-generational, muti generational

Video by Home Instead Senior Care

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