The number of Americans living in multi-generational households reached 51.4 million in 2009, an increase of 10.5% over 2007, according to research findings from the Pew Research Center (Pew). The rise in multi-generational families during the Great Recession (2007-2009) constitutes the sharpest increase in multigenerational households in modern U.S. history. Prior to 2007, the annual rate of increase in multi-generational households was only 2% and was due mainly to delayed marriage and increases in immigration.
Pew defines multi-generational households as those with two generations of adults aged 25 or older, three or more generations living together, or grandparents living with grandchildren. The current rise in multi-generational households is driven by the economic downturn. The number of unemployed Americans rose by 7.2 million from 2007 to 2009 and, according to other Pew research findings, the unemployed are far more likely to rely on a multi-generational housing arrangement to make ends meet. A quarter of the unemployed lived in a multi-generational household in 2009, compared to 16% of those holding jobs. The lack of employment is also driving young people back home. By 2009, one in five young adults (ages 25-34) lived in a multi-generational household, a 16.8% increase from 2007.
Multi-generational living arrangements have become a social and financial safety net for a growing number of Americans. Researchers found strikingly lower poverty rates among multi-generational households (11.5%) than all other households (14.6%) in 2009. Notably, those most economically vulnerable to the recession’s impact experienced the greatest reductions in poverty when living in a multi-generation household. For instance, among the unemployed, those in multi-generational households experienced a poverty rate of 17.5%, while the poverty rate of the unemployed in other types of households was much higher at 30.3%.
Pew researchers found the fastest growth in multigenerational households occurred among Hispanics (17.6%). Among minority groups, economic outcomes were much better among those living in multi-generational households. Multi-generational Hispanic households had a 19% higher family size-adjusted median income than other Hispanic households. Blacks living in multi-generational households also had higher median incomes. Both groups experienced lower rates of poverty when living in multi-generational households.
The study uses the U.S. Census Bureau’s America Community Survey (ACS) data from 2007 to 2009, and Decennial Census data from 1900 to 2000.
The report, Fighting Poverty in a Tough Economy, Americans Move in with their Relatives, can be found on the Pew Research Center’s webpage at www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/10/03/fighting-poverty-in-a-bad-economy-americans-move-in-with-relatives/?src-prc-headline