Report

The Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household

  • March 18, 2010

The multi-generational American family household is staging a comeback – driven in part by the job losses and home foreclosures of recent years but more so by demographic changes that have been gathering steam for decades.

As of 2008, a record 49 million Americans, or 16.1% of the total U.S. population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data.

This represents a significant trend reversal. Starting right after World War II, the extended family household fell out of favor with the American public. In 1940, about a quarter of the population lived in one; by 1980, just 12% did. A range of demographic factors likely contributed to this decline, among them the rapid growth of the nuclear-family-centered suburbs; the decline in the share of immigrants in the population; and the sharp rise in the health and economic well-being of adults ages 65 and older.

Since bottoming out around 1980, however, the multi-generational family household has mounted a comeback. The reversal has taken place among all major demographic groups, and it, too, appears to be the result of a mix of social and economic forces.

Read the full report The Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household on the Pew Research Center's Social and Demographic Trends Web site.