The Pew Research Center reports that a record number of Americans—57 million or or 18.1 percent of the population—lived in multi-generational households in 2012, double the number who lived in such households in 1980.
After three decades of steady but measured growth, the arrangement of having multiple generations together under one roof spiked during the Great Recession of 2007-2009 and has kept on growing in the post-recession period, albeit at a slower pace. . .
Historically, the nation’s oldest Americans have been the age group most likely to live in multi-generational households. But in recent years, younger adults have surpassed older adults in this regard. In 2012, 22.7% of adults ages 85 and older lived in a multi-generational household, just shy of the 23.6% of adults ages 25 to 34 in the same situation.
What’s the explanation for the growth in multigenerational households? Pew cites young adults’ decisions to marry at later ages and to stay in school longer as well as the country’s changing racial and ethnic composition (since racial and ethnic minorities generally have been more likely to live in multi-generational family arrangements).
The cause that should worry us is the deteriorating economic situation of young adults:
the declining employment and wages of less-educated young adults may be undercutting their capacity to live independently of their parents. Unemployed adults are much more likely to live in multi-generational households than adults with jobs are. A 2011 Pew Research report found that in 2009, 25% of the unemployed lived in a multi-generational household, compared with 16% of those with jobs.
As Heidi Shierholz [pdf] recently testified, the wages of young graduates have fared extremely poorly during the Second Great Depression.
The real (inflation-adjusted) wages of young high school graduates have dropped 9.8 percent since 2007 (the declines were larger for men, at 11.0 percent, than for women, at 8.1 percent). The wages of young college graduates have also dropped since 2007, by 6.9 percent (for young college graduates, the declines were much larger for women, at 10.1 percent, than for men, at 4.0 percent).
But they were doing poorly even before the most recent crisis.
they saw virtually no growth over the entire period of broad wage stagnation that began during the business cycle of 2000–2007. Since 2000, the wages of young high school graduates have declined 10.8 percent (11.4 percent for men and 10.7 percent for women), and the wages of young college graduates have decreased 7.7 percent (0.5 percent for men and 14.2 percent for women). These drops translate into substantial amounts of money. For full-time, full-year workers, the hourly wage declines since 2000 represent a roughly $2,500 decline in annual earnings for young high school graduates, and a roughly $3,000 decline for young college graduates.
As a result, young adults have been increasingly forced to have the freedom to stay or move back in with their parents, thus increasing the number of Americans who are living in multigenerational households.