Tanvi Misra is a staff writer for CityLab covering immigrant communities, housing, economic inequality, and culture. She also authors Navigator, a weekly newsletter for urban explorers (subscribe here). Her work also appears in The Atlantic, NPR, and BBC.
A record 60.6 million Americans are living with grandma and grandpa.
In 2014, more young people were living with their parents than with a romantic partner. And a lot of these millennials’ parents were cohabiting with their own parents.
A new Pew Research Center analysis finds that a record-high number of Americans—60.6 million, to be exact—were living with with grandma and grandpa that year. In terms of share of the U.S. population, these people made up 19 percent in 2014. That’s almost as high as back in 1950, when 21 percent of the population, or 32 million people, lived in such an arrangement.
The rebound in multigenerational households (having two or more adult generations, or grandparents and grandchildren under the same roof) is relatively recent. In 1980, the share of Americans in this living arrangement had declined to just 12 percent. It inched back up in the 1990s, and saw a steep rise post-recession.
Here’s Pew’s chart that shows the U-shaped trajectory of this trend since 1950:
Money—or lack thereof—helps explain why this housing arrangement is back in style. The economic woes of the late-2000s brought millions of young adults boomeranging back to their childhood homes. But the trend also has to do with immigration and diversification of the U.S. population.
Foreign-born households are more likely to be multigenerational than native-born ones. Among immigrants, Asian and Hispanics enjoy the largest shares; and Asians are projected to overtake Hispanics as the fastest growing immigrant group. These two immigrant groups have re-configured America’s demographic composition.
In the overall population (foreign- and U.S.-born included) Asians and Hispanics are growing faster than whites, and both tend to favor multigenerational living arrangements. In 2014, 28 percent of Asian Americans lived in such households, compared to 25 percent of Hispanics and blacks. The white share was significantly smaller at 15 percent:
This trend hasn’t caught housing developers off-guard. The Wall Street Journal called In-law apartments—homes with add-on units for older generations—the “hottest amenity in real estate.” Some vast new multigenerational homes are designed with separate entrances, extra laundry rooms, and second kitchens equipped with wok burners to accommodate the needs of those most likely to use them. Depending on zoning issues, some households can choose to install “granny pods”—small pre-fab backyard cottages outfitted for an older resident, which many families prefer to assisted-living options. Expect more ideas for multigenerational housing in the coming years: Given demographic trends, the need to accommodate a wider range of ages under one roof isn’t going away.