What Studies Tell Us About Multigenerational Housing
Saving money. Caring for family members. More companionship. For these reasons and more, the number of people living in multigenerational households quadrupled between 1971 and 2021.1 As of March 2021, 59.7 million people were living in multigenerational family households.
What Is a Multigenerational Family Household?
A household is considered to be multigenerational when it includes, at a minimum, two generations of adults who are 25 years old or older, or grandparents and grandchildren who are younger than 25 years old. In some households, adult children continue to live with their parents and in others, parents move in with their adult children. In other cases, three, four, or even five generations might live together: great grandparents, grandparents, parents, adult children, and their children, all under one roof.
Why Are More People Living in Multigenerational Households?
In the 1950s, only 21% of households were multigenerational.2 Single-family housing was financially attainable for many people, and private nursing homes were abundant for seniors unable to live independently. More and more homes housed nuclear families. By 1980, only 12% of households were multigenerational. But then that downward trend began to reverse, as more and more people began to live in multigenerational households.
According to Pew Research, 67% of people cite finances as a major or minor reason to live with multiple generations.3 Thirty-three percent of adults in multigenerational households say that caregiving is a major reason why they live with adult family members: 25% indicated they are caring for an adult, and 12% indicated they are caring for a child.1 Thirteen percent cited the pandemic as a factor in their living arrangement.1 Seniors living longer, young adults staying in school longer and delaying marriage, and rising costs of both housing and care are also possible factors driving the multigenerational housing trends.
What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Multigenerational Households?
- People who live in multigenerational households are less likely to live in poverty.1
- More than half (56%) of adults in multigenerational households say it’s been very positive or at least somewhat positive to live with adult family members.3
- Nearly 60% of adults in multigenerational households say that it’s convenient and 54% say it’s rewarding all or most of the time to live with adult family members.3
- Forty percent of adults in multigenerational households say that it’s stressful some of the time and 23% say it’s stressful all or most of the time.3
- As income levels drop, people are more likely to say they don’t have enough space to live comfortably in their multigenerational home. Nine percent of upper-income respondents say they need more space, while 38% of lower-income respondents say they need more space.3
- Women are more likely to report that they do all the chores. Thirty-two percent of women say all the chores fall to them, compared to 21% of men who say the same thing.3
What Does the Future of Multigenerational Housing Look Like?
For more families to be able to live together, more homes need to be built that can accommodate multiple families. However, most housing in the U.S. is designed for single families. In 2019, there were more than 170 cohousing communities in America, but the costs to build more are high and developers are more likely to build single-family housing despite a trend toward multiple generations living together.2
One builder, Lennar, builds what they call “Next Gen” suites in 5–10% of their new homes, which they call a “home within a home” that includes a separate bedroom, bathroom, living area, kitchenette, and entrance as part of a larger home. Additionally, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have become popular in some areas. ADUs are small housing units that are built on single-family home lots. They’re also known as granny flats, mother-in-law suites, or backyard cottages. ADUs can serve as multigenerational housing or as rental income for the primary homeowner. However, some communities protest that ADUs cause parking problems, create overcrowding, and increase noise and garbage, so they are sometimes highly regulated.
There is no sign that the number of multigenerational households has peaked. Groups like AARP (the American Association of Retired Persons) and Generations United are calling for more multigenerational housing to be built. The question is: Will policymakers answer that call?
Answer the Call
If you’d like to play a role in bringing more multigenerational housing to your community, consider a career in public administration. Public administrators work in local, state, and federal agencies to create policies and oversee programs that can make a difference in people’s lives. Often, public administrators begin their careers by earning a Master of Public Administration (MPA). Through an MPA degree program, you can gain the skills you need to manage and lead public programs collaborating with government agencies, private organizations, and nonprofits.
An online MPA program can enable you to study from home or on the road and allow you to continue to work full time as you earn a degree. Online education uses a flexible learning platform that lets you complete your courses from anywhere you have internet access. You can gain the skills you need in public administration and create a professional portfolio to share with potential employers—all from the comfort of your home.
If you want to improve life for the residents of your community, earn your Master of Public Administration degree online.
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