Multi-Generational Households on the Rise

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The percentage of Americans living in multi-generational households is growing. The trend began some 30 years ago, about the time middle class wages stopped growing (immigration patterns also seem to be a factor), but it has turned sharply upward during the Great Recession.

This shift has some interesting implications for architects and builders, as it will affect both the number and configuration of houses and apartments we build. But there are broader societal consequences that I find equally interesting to ponder. As a parent who does not look forward to his children leaving home, and whose children would love nothing more than having their grandparents move in with us, I find the following tidbits especially compelling:

After rising steeply for nearly a century, the share of adults ages 65 and older who live alone flattened out around 1990 and has since declined a bit. It currently stands at 27% -- up from 6% in 1900. 

Older adults who live alone are less healthy and they more often feel sad or depressed than their counterparts who live with a spouse or with others. These correlations stand up even after controlling for demographic factors such as gender, race, age, income and education.

The economic mess we're in is working all manner of changes in the way we live. Among all of the negatives, there are bound to be some unexpected positives. For some of us, at least, this may be one of them. --Bruce D. Snider



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