Extended family household on the rise in U.S.

Thu Mar 18, 2010 12:10am EDT
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WASHINGTON (Reuters Life!) - More Americans are living in the same household with their extended family because of the poor economy and changing social factors, a research group said on Thursday.

About 16 percent of the U.S. population now live in multi-generational households, up from 12.1 percent in 1980, according to the Pew Research Center's Social and Demographic Trends project.

A multi-generational household includes at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation.

"This represents a significant trend reversal. Starting right after World War II, the extended family household fell out of favor with the American public," the report said. "In 1940, about a quarter of the population lived in one; by 1980 just 12 percent did."

Since bottoming out around 1980, the multi-generational household mounted a comeback to a record 49 million Americans in 2008 due to a mix of economic and social factors, the Pew Research analysis said.

Between 2007 and 2008, the most recent year for which data is available, the number of Americans living with their extended family grew by 2.6 million.

The new trend has affected adults of all ages. About one in five adults aged 25 to 34 and one in five aged 65 or older live with extended family.

The report cited high unemployment and rising foreclosures as part of the reason for the spike.

Social factors that add to the trend include a higher median age of first time marriage. As a result, there are more unmarried Americans in their 20s who might choose to live with their parents because the bad economy makes it difficult for them to find jobs or a home on their own.

Another factor has been the large number of immigrants, mainly Latin Americans and Asian, that began arriving around 1970. Many of the immigrants are more inclined than native-born Americans to live with extended family.

(Reporting by Deborah Charles; editing by Mohammad Zargham)