Multi-Generational Households Return

April 1, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Boomers & Older | Financial Services | Hispanic | Youth & Gen X

The multi-generational family household has been returning in the US since 1980 and at an accelerated pace during the current recession, according to the Pew Research Center.

Share of Population in Multi-Generational Household Reaches Pre-1960 Level
In 2008, an estimated 49 million Americans, or 16% of the population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation. In 1980, this figure was just 28 million, or 12% of the population. The last time this high a percentage of the US population lived in a multi-generational family household was in the late 1950s. By 1960, the share had dropped to 15%.

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This 33% increase since 1980 in the share of all Americans living in such households represents a sharp trend reversal. From 1940 to 1980, the share of Americans living in such households had declined by more than half, dropping from 25% in 1940 to 12% in 1980.

The so-called “Great Recession,” which most economists believe began in December 2007, created a spike in multi-generational family household growth. Between 2007 and 2008, the number of Americans living in a multi-generational family household grew by 2.6 million, or 0.8% of the entire US population.

Minorities More Likely to Live in Multi-Generational Households
The return of the multi-generational household is disproportionately occurring among minority populations in the US. Twenty-five percent of Asian Americans live in a multi-generational family household, along with 23% of black Americans and 22% of Hispanic Americans. In contrast, only 13% of white Americans live in a multi-generational family household.

pew-share-pop-living-mutligenerational-ethnicity-apr-2010.jpg

Other Findings

  • The multi-generational family household trend is especially affecting the elderly and young. About one in five adults ages 25 to 34 lives in a multi-generational family household, as does one in five adults ages 65 and older.
  • After rising steeply for nearly a century, the share of adults ages 65 and older who live alone flattened out around 1990 and has since declined a bit. It currently stands at 27%, up from 6% in 1900.
  • Older adults who live alone are less healthy and they more often feel sad or depressed than their counterparts who live with a spouse or with others. These correlations stand up even after controlling for demographic factors such as gender, race, age, income and education.

Marketing across the Generations
Marketers attempting to target multi-generational family households need to understand that each generation of the US population has unique wants and needs that should be addressed differently, according to The Nielsen Company.

For example, the Greatest Generation (65-plus) is value oriented and finds freebies and senior discounts appealing. Boomers (45-63) are big spenders and can be kept happy with monthly or quarterly cash-back savings programs that reflect spending levels. Generation X (ages 33-44) members have young families and are time-starved, so packaged deals appeal to them. Millennials (ages 15-32) are visually oriented and are constantly connected to the internet via portable device.

About the Data: The report is based on the Pew Research Center’s analysis of US Census Bureau data as well as its own public opinion surveys.

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