Multi-generational households were common during the Great Depression, and as recently as the 1940’s, almost one-quarter of Americans lived with multiple generations under one roof. This dropped significantly from the 1960’s onward, but it is making a comeback. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2013, 16.7% of Americans lived with three generations under one roof – almost 51 million people.
The recession created a 10.5% increase in such households from 2007-2009, and with the continuing housing situation and slow economic growth, that number is likely to be even higher today. Not only are more adult children living at home due to unemployment or underemployment, but a larger number of older Americans are also moving in with their children – or vice versa.
Having three generations living under one roof can be an excellent cooperative effort and a learning experience for the youngest generation – or a source of incredible stress for all. Consider these factors:
- Income – This could be either a pro or a con, depending on the employment status and income of all involved, and how many mouths there are to feed.
Assuming the income is pooled or divided equitably among the bills, it can be a positive experience with the whole family pulling together. If some are not happy with the arrangement, it can breed resentment and create a stressful environment.
- Child/Elder Care – For many of the households that have two working parents, having at least one other person in the house to assist for the care of others is extremely helpful. Having a grandparent to be able to assist with childcare, or adult children who can help to take care of an older relative can reduce stress and help the breadwinners maintain a tolerable work/life balance.
This logic is turned on its head when both the older and the younger generations need care, or specialized care is required. So-called “sandwich” parents that are simultaneously working and taking care of young children and aging parents face an almost intolerable burden.
- Style of Home – More often than not, this is difficult since people usually buy homes sized for themselves and their children, not for three generations. If grandparents are having difficulty with stairs and other features of the house, it may be necessary to do modifications or repairs, thus stretching already tight budgets. However, Americans are resilient, and most folks are able to improvise and make the best of their living arrangement.
- Household Chores –Cooking, cleaning and other daily tasks are much easier when spread around an extended family. Again, this requires family members being content with the chores, each other’s cooking, standards of cleanliness, and the like.
- Togetherness –It is always possible that extended families can get on each other’s nerves, especially in cramped living arrangements with limited personal space. However, this appears to be a minor problem at best.
For the majority of those in a multigenerational living arrangement, the sense of family and togetherness is increased. According to a 2011 report from Generations United, 82% of respondents said a multi-generational living arrangement brought the family closer.
Hillary Clinton’s book reminded us that “It Takes a Village” – and in a manner of speaking, through increased multi-generational households, the village concept is becoming more popular. Overall, Americans seem to be seeing the advantages more than the disadvantages.
Perhaps this phenomenon could give today’s youth a greater appreciation of the multi-generational household. Within another generation, it could increase to numbers not seen since the Great Depression – but hopefully it does not bring another Great Depression along for the ride.
MoneyTips is conducting a survey of hundreds of retirees to find out how they live today and how they prepared for retirement. We are also surveying working Americans who need to get ready for the next chapter in their lives. Read the preliminary results and take part – we’ll send you the results to help you prepare for the future!