We’re all familiar with the ever-changing direction of trends in America – from the hottest new celebrity to the introduction of the latest fad diet – but what if those trends hit a little closer to home.

In recent decades, the newest housing trend has been the shift from single family living to multigenerational households. According to a study done by the Pew Research Center “from 1971-2021, the number of people living in multigenerational households quadrupled.” As of 2021, about one-in-five Americans now live in a multigenerational household. While this cultural shift may seem atypical to the some, the concept of living in a home with 3 or more generations has been practiced in America for hundreds of years.

The popularity of multigenerational households in America originated during the birth of the nation and was driven by the agrarian economy of the time. In a country fueled by farmers, having an abundance of family members (who doubled as farmhands) was the goal. Adult children would often live at home with their parents and children to continue working on the family farm and eventually inherit the land.

This trend was commonplace in American society throughout the pre-industrial era but the tides began to turn as the country began to urbanize and develop. With the growing cost of land, families lost the ability to subdivide their family farms and had to shift their family dynamics. Instead of multigenerational living, Americans rushed into the city and built their lives on owning smaller, more affordable homes that oftentimes housed just a set of parents and their children. With the new housing customs and the introduction of the Social Security Act, elderly parents were encouraged to live on their own and households began to dwindle in popularity.

The single-family standard of living persisted throughout the mid-20th century and became an accepted part of American culture. It wasn’t until the later in the 1900s when this set trend began to change. What has accounted for these changes? The main driver in the comeback of multigenerational homes has been a demographic shift coupled with a relatively wavering economy.

On the demographic level, the change in the makeup of immigrants has pushed multigenerational living to the forefront. The late 1900s and early 2000s was headed by immigration of Latin Americans and Asians. Because both Latin American and Asian cultures traditionally live with 3 or more generations in a household, the growth of this key demographic has increased the normality of multigenerational homes in America on a major level.

Additionally, the instability of the American economy in recent decades has created an environment that favors moving in with multiple generations. With growing costs of childcare, housing, and healthcare, it makes sense for many families to make the switch to multigenerational homes. This structure of living allows individuals to cut down on housing costs while potentially sharing childcare and caregiving duties.


With these new financial advantages and demographic changes, it is no question that multigenerational living is making a comeback in America; but what does this mean for the older population? Well, a lot of new research is pointing towards the multiple benefits of switching to this structure of living.

One major plus of living with your adult children is the extra support at low cost. Many older individuals don’t feel comfortable living by themselves yet feel as if they cannot afford assisted living or are not yet in need of it. Living in a multigenerational household can prove to be an easy fix for this problem. With more people in one household, responsibilities can be shared and each family member can continue to work while sharing any excess caregiving, childcare, or chore duties.

On top of that, major financial benefits are associated with multigenerational households. Instead of having multiple mortgages, utility payments, or rents to pay, living with multiple generations in one home allows for a spread of financial responsibilities while still having reliable housing. Cutting down on these costs can grant a substantial amount of financial freedom to all generations in a household and can be especially useful for older adults who no longer have an active income.

Aside from the advantages of shared responsibility and financial freedom, living in a multigenerational household can lead to deeper relationships and less loneliness among older age groups. Seniors are oftentimes faced with a new isolation that can be progressed by lack of transportation or a growing distance from relatives. This isolation is linked to mental health struggles – specifically among older adults – and can lead to a lack of social fulfillment. Living in a multigenerational home works to attack this isolation and can actually lead to a development of deeper relationships between older adults and their children and grandchildren.

It is clear that the rising trend of living in a multigenerational home is not going away anytime soon. Both demographic changes and economic shifts throughout the country seem to support this structure of living. And while multigenerational households might be the most recent trend in American housing structures, the abundance of benefits for older populations will surely persist!




This content is free for use with credit to the City of Madison - Madison Senior Center and a link back to the original post.