Multigenerational Households (page 2)
What are Multigenerational Households?
Ann Bristow, 66, bought a two bedroom condo in downtown Seattle in 2004 to share with her 36-year-old daughter and 20-month-old granddaughter. Ms. Bristow was retiring from her job in Indiana at the same time that her daughter became a single mother. The mother and daughter decided to move to Seattle together to be by Ms. Bristow’s other daughter. Ms. Bristow takes care of her granddaughter while her daughter works and goes to school for a second Master’s degree, as her daughter is saving money before settling on her own.
Ms. Bristow and her family are an example of a growing number of multigenerational households, one of many types of domestic compositions in the United States. According to the United States Census Bureau, multigenerational family households are defined as households that consist of "three or more generations of parents and their families."1 These types of living situations span all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses.
The purpose of this fact sheet is to provide information on the prevalence of multigenerational households, the reasons for these housing arrangements, and discuss some of the rewards and challenges as well as tips for success and innovative ideas.
Numbers of Multigenerational Households
While multigenerational households represent a small percentage of US living arrangements, the increase in numbers over the last decade indicate that many Americans are reversing the long-term trend of living independently.
According to the 2000 Census, there were 3.9 million multigenerational family households in the United States, representing approximately 4% of all households. In 65% of these households, the grandparent is the householder and lives with their children and their grandchildren. In 33% of the multigenerational households, the grandparent lives in the home of their children (or son- or daughterin-law) along with their children’s children. In 2% of multigenerational households, both grandparents and great-grandparents, as well as children and grandchildren of the grandparents are living in the home.2
Three states have exceeded 5% in the number of multigenerational households – with Hawaii having the largest percent of multigenerational family households at 8.2%, followed by California at 5.6% and Mississippi at 5.2%. North Dakota has the smallest percentage of households made up of multigenerational families with 1.1%.
Reasons for Multigenerational Households
There are a number of reasons for multigenerational households, some being positive and others more difficult. According to the US Census Bureau, some of the most prevalent circumstances that lead to the larger number of multigenerational households in one geographic area over another are recent immigration, where new immigrants may choose to live with relatives, areas with housing shortages and high housing costs, and places with large numbers of single parents who choose to have grandparents assist with child rearing.3
The following are some reasons for multigenerational households:
- High housing costs – mortgage, utilities, house down payment
- Cost of living
- Expense of child care/elder care
- Parents returning to school for further education
- Parents working to save money to become independent
- 1996 welfare reform requirement that teenage mothers to live with a responsible adult in order to receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits
- Belief in living with multiple generations
- Desire to stay connected to roots
- Importance of ritual – celebrating holidays, special events
- Belief that child care/elder care are the responsibility of the family
- Ownership of large homes require the pooling of resources
- Conviction in age-integrated communities
- Desire to be involved with offspring and/or elders
- Widow/widower and seek companionship or are unable to live alone
- Divorce that requires moving into parent’s home with children
- Illness that requires daily caregiving and assistance
- Extended life span – longevity can mean outliving resources or having more than enough resources to share
- Housing shortages
- Single parenting
- May be temporary or permanent living situation
Families have discovered that living together has numerous rewards for all generations. There is an emotional closeness that often forms with physical proximity. Grandparents and great-grandparents are involved in assisting with grandchildren’s growth and development while sharing family history. Grandchildren learn how to care for and take care of their elders. Family members help to balance each other’s busy lives and share in daily activities. Additionally, there is constant companionship which alleviates feelings of loneliness. Sharing financial responsibilities can reduce money strain and related stress while allowing individuals to save for the future.
Reprinted with the permission of Generations United. © 2008 Generations United.
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