More Extended Families Living Together

20-somethings are returning home and seniors are moving in with adult children


The dismal economy has changed American attitudes about living with their extended family. A record 49 million Americans - or about 16 percent of the total U.S. population - lived in a household with two or more adult generations in 2008, up 2.6 million from 2007, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data. Here is a look at why families are increasingly moving into these multigenerational households.

Senior assistance. Older Americans sometimes move in with their adult children due to widowhood, declining health, or simply outliving their retirement savings. Some 20 percent of those age 65 and older lived in multigenerational households in 2008, up from 17 percent in 1980. Older women (22 percent) are more likely than older men (16 percent) to live with their children or grandchildren. Most seniors who live with their extended family say they are quite pleased with the arrangement. Americans who live with relatives say they feel happier and report better health than their counterparts who live alone, according to a 2009 Pew Research survey. The proportion of older Americans living alone has declined from 29 percent in 1990 to 27 percent in 2008.

[See Baby Boomers Moving In With Adult Children.]

Immigration. New immigrants to the U.S. are far more inclined than native-born Americans to live in multi-generational family groups, Pew Research found. Among people born in the U.S. Hispanics (22 percent), blacks (23 percent) and Asians (25 percent) are all significantly more likely than whites (13 percent) to live with their extended family. The rates for all four groups have increased since 2006 due to the increase in unemployment.

[See Generation Y Too Indebted to Save for Retirement.]

Failure to launch. Young people are increasingly continuing to live with their parents after age 25 due to an inability to find a decently paying full time job and the older ages at which couples marry. The typical age of first marriage is now 28 for men and 26 for women, both up 5 years from 1970. About 20 percent of adults ages 25 to 34 lived in a multigenerational household in 2008, up from 11 percent in 1980. Unemployment for young workers has further increased since the 2008, which has almost certainly caused even more young people to move back in with their parents.