Adult children return home after college. Grandparents move in with their children and grandchildren. It’s a new time for America’s families. According to the Pew Research Foundation in 2016, a record 64 million people, or 20% of the U.S. population, lived with multiple generations under one roof.
The share of the population living in this type of household – defined as including two or more adult generations or including grandparents and grandchildren younger than 25 – declined from 21% in 1950 to a low of 12% in 1980. But that tide turned. Among 25- to 29-year-olds in 2016, 33% were residents of such households. Among a broader group of young adults, those ages 18 to 34, living with parents surpassed other living arrangements in 2014 for the first time in more than 130 years.
What has changed in our families and our culture?
Economic and cultural factors have likely both had a hand in this change.
After the recession hit in 2008, the foreclosure rate skyrocketed, and families merged resources. Even as the job market began rebounding, college graduates still returned home while they looked for jobs and paid down student loan debt, which had reached an unprecedented high.
At the same time, seniors are living longer. They often benefit from the support of a family who can aid in daily chores and caregiving, while allowing them to protect their financial resources. The families gain from this as well, as cultures and generations build familial bonds, and often grandparents can help with child care and child rearing.
Another possible reason for the trend of multigenerational living, according to Pew, is that the Asian and Hispanic population is growing rapidly, and those groups are more likely to live in multigenerational households.
How does this change the housing market?
Homebuilders, developers, and designers are responding to this new demand, designing and creating floor plans that allow for separate living space, reconfigured kitchens, and that have more than one point of entry that allows for privacy.
One large builder, Lennar, has adapted to multigenerational living with its NextGen Communities concept, which it advertises as “Two homes. Under one roof” and “A home within a home.” multigenerational building concept boasts providing accommodating floor plans for families without sacrificing comfort.
For families not ready to make a move to a new home, using resources from the sale of a home often opens up options for home modifications such as turning a basement into a grandparent suite, creating alternatives for stairs or building out a first-floor master suite, updating kitchens and bathrooms for accessibility, and eliminating tripping hazards between rooms and in showers.
What does the future look like?
No one knows exactly what the future for multigenerational homes looks like. There’s agreement that adult children will continue to live with their aging parents. And there’s agreement that college costs make it difficult for graduates to immediately strike out on their own. These two ideas themselves suggest that multigenerational families aren’t going anywhere soon.