Multigenerational Households on the Rise

Discussion
May 26, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


In other cultures and earlier in this nation’s history, it was not unusual for three and sometimes four generations of a family to live under the same roof. That has not been true in much of American society for many years. That is, until recently.


As a report in The New York Times reveals, multigenerational households are the fastest growing living arrangement as quantified by the U.S. Census Bureau.


While multigenerational households represent a small portion of the overall number – only 4.2 percent, or 4 million, of total dwellings – the growth of this form of living arrangement increased 38 percent between 1990 and 2000.


The increase in multigenerational households is already having an effect on a number of industries including architects and construction. So-called mother/daughter units are on the rise and amenities, such as larger kitchens, are being incorporated into homes to allow for more people.


Carlos Elenes of EBTA Architects told the Times, “You see a lot more people dedicating a portion of their homes to loved ones.”


Many families are moving in together because of the high cost of housing in markets such as California.


“There’s a financial aspect, but also people are realizing the importance of staying connected to their roots,” said Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United. “Families have been scattered for so many years, and there’s a reversal of that trend.”


Moderator’s Comment: What would you say is the biggest reason behind the rise in multigenerational families in the
U.S.? How are multigenerational families and other recent so-called non-traditional householders having an effect on retailing and consumer products manufacturing?

– George Anderson – Moderator

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

9 Comments on "Multigenerational Households on the Rise"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
14 years 9 months ago

With the cost of housing having exploded in a number of metro areas, especially on the coasts, another trend is to convert single family dwellings into multi-family units. Families aren’t living together necessarily but are living in dwellings and space originally designed for fewer people.

Items that create a sense of space where there isn’t enough or at least isn’t as much as there used to be, will be in strong demand. This reduction in individual space may also be a factor in all of the spa/pampering services cropping up.

Dave Wendland
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Multi-generational households will continue to accelerate in the U.S. (and worldwide). We have become more aware of its significance based on an acquisition we made in 2005 in the “family caregiver” space. Parents are quite often living with their children because they want to retain their quality of life, independence and dignity. And this phenomenon is further supported by steady migration of seniors back to residences: from institutions to skilled nursing facilities; skilled nursing to assisted living centers; assisted living centers to at-home care.

We believe this presents a unique retail opportunity. One that will allow innovators to address the needs of the shopper and the care recipient. That’s where programs such as ours will have the biggest impact – for the retailer and for the consumer.

Rebecca Cruise
Guest
Rebecca Cruise
14 years 9 months ago

I’m of the generation in which I find myself caring for my mother, working full time and helping raise grandchildren with their single parent. It is a tight squeeze but it’s clear I am not alone. I see and hear about it every day from other people.

We have a large house designed for two people but “empty nest” does not apply to us. Family has become very important to me and I see this as an investment. In countries other than the U.S.A., caring for family and living together in small living spaces is a way of life. It has made me grow.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
14 years 9 months ago
More than two years ago I wrote a piece for just-food about how retailers were coping with/being affected by the increasing number of multi-generational households. Put as simply as possible, the shopper in the household could be of either the older or the middle generation and they were feeding people with different tastes, different schedules and different habits. Often there was negotiation; sometimes families or parts of them ate together, other times it was every man/woman/child for him or herself. Too many possible combinations. All the more need for flexibility by manufacturers and retailers. And I don’t just mean more convenience; pack and portion sizes were important as was the ability to mix and match and choose fresh uncooked ingredients. Sometimes grandparents looked after grandchildren; sometimes the grandparents needed to be looked after. The bottom line is that there is lots of opportunity to meet multiple needs and demands. Although there are lots of statistics (Race, you must be able to supply some of them) about single person households and forecasts for them to increase,… Read more »
Bonny Baldwin
Guest
Bonny Baldwin
14 years 9 months ago

I think we forget sometimes that the model of separate households and homeownership for every generation is relatively new – before WWII it wasn’t a common expectation. We may find that we’re not as overextended and time-deprived as a culture as more people rediscover the multi-generational household. In California, I see this trend all around me, as well as other cooperative arrangements for the sharing of resources like childcare. So many people have been stretched beyond the breaking point in our state.

Dan Nelson
Guest
Dan Nelson
14 years 9 months ago

There are obviously a combination of factors that have influenced the expansion and growth of multigenerational households. Some include cultural diversity, where immigration and cultural backgrounds makes this type of lifestyle arrangement more in line with their background and history.

Financial issues will continue to play a role, and children return to the home to build some equity before going it alone in an increasing cost of lifestyle environment.

Baby boomers moving to more senior years of life and their need for family care and support will have a profound impact on growth of this segment.

The key is to recognize the continued expansion of this household/lifestyle change, and to better understand their unique and different needs and how to serve them. Segmentation of serving the customer continues to expand, and winners are those that identify the emerging trends and adjust in how they support those changes.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 9 months ago

Al McClain’s comment on space issues: certainly the huge boom in the storage business proves its validity. And Ikea’s great popularity doesn’t just stem from low prices. Much of their furniture is either space-optimal or storage-optimal. As people live longer, their possessions accumulate. Japanese society values miniaturization. iPods are miniaturization. Anything that can be made smaller will have higher value.

Ganapathy Subramanian
Guest
Ganapathy Subramanian
14 years 9 months ago

It is still a common practice in countries like India. When I was young, close to sixteen people lived in my house (father, mother, elder brother, elder sister, younger brother, grandmother, uncle, uncle’s wife and their six kids) without any problems or issues.

My father and my uncle give their monthly salaries to grandmother, who used to prepare the monthly budget (without any deficit).

This multigenerational living gave us (especially to the children) great unity in ourselves. We kids never had any misunderstanding; all the household work was beautifully split between ladies.

Today, most of us live in different places due to work, but, even now, we gather at family functions.

Those young memories are still in me. It was a wonderful time.

But at the same time, individual savings, individual facilities and most probably privacy between married couple was not that easy.

In life, there is + and – in every bit. We have to train ourselves to live happily, because human life is precious.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
14 years 9 months ago

Didn’t the Baby Boomers get their X and Y generation
children back home when they couldn’t find a job?

A J. Carvel quote: “It’s the economy…..stupid”.

And the stupidity of Wall Street shaking the corporate world
with meeting earnings forecast demands. In turn, downsizing, cutting cost, reducing Brand support and marketing, R & D dollars occurred. Hence, reduced tax revenue to all levels of government for education.

So we know why the U.S. education system is failing us in engineers and high tech creative and knowledgeable minds.

More kids know the stars of American Idol than who is the V.P. of the U.S. – or how to multiply.

The status of money, EBITDA, ROI, is greater than education. And that is the rest of the story!!!!!! Hmmmmmmmmmmm

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

What would you say is the biggest reason behind the rise in multigenerational families in the U.S.?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...