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Share of young adults living at home has nearly tripled since 1970s   

A new report from the Pew Research Center lists student loan debt, educational attainment and housing costs among the reasons fewer people are flying the coop. But multigenerational housing arrangements can also insulate young adults from poverty.

(CN) — Nearly one in four U.S. adults ages 25 to 34 lived in multigenerational family households last year, up from fewer than one in 10 in 1971. According to the Pew Research Center, the striking increase over 50 years — from 9% to 25% — can primarily be attributed to finances. 

Multigenerational living refers to an arrangement in which two or more adult generations live in the same household. A Pew report released Wednesday indicates multigenerational living increased among all demographics, but grew fastest among young adults with less education.  

In March, Pew reported the number of people living in multigenerational family households quadrupled between 1971 and 2021, reaching 59.7 million. Among those, 40% attributed the arrangement to finances, while 30% indicated it was to provide care for a member of the household.  

At the time, Pew also indicated the increase was “fed by social forces that include rapid growth of the U.S. Asian and Hispanic populations who, along with Black Americans, each are more likely than White Americans to live with extended family, especially if they are immigrants.” The overall population of the United States increased 59% since 1971, from 207 million to 331 million. 

Pew senior researcher Richard Fry noted Wednesday's report also indicates the increase in multigenerational households is the result of rising student debt and housing costs, although the increases are most pronounced among adults without a college degree, whose share in multigenerational households has tripled over 50 years. It’s a particularly notable change from 1971, when the numbers of individuals in such housing arrangements were similar regardless of educational attainment. 

“What’s happened over the last 50 years, if we look at the typical earnings of college educated men, they have been on the rise,” Fry said. “If we look at the earnings of young women, generally they have been on the rise. But the last five decades have not been kind to less educated young men. When we look at inflation adjusted numbers, their earnings have been falling. Effectively, they simply cannot afford to live independently.” 

But that doesn’t necessarily mean mutigenerational households are poor. In fact, according to the report, such arrangements can insulate young people from poverty. The median household income of young adults living with two parents was about $113,000 in 2021, 67% percent more than the U.S. average. Even those living in multigenerational arrangements with one or no parents typically have a median household income 11% above the national average. 

“What we know is if these less educated young adults were not living in a multigenerational arrangement, they would have a much higher poverty rate,” Fry said. “So yes, these arrangements are on the rise, but they are particularly a safe harbor from the financial storm for less educated young adults who tend to be struggling in the U.S. labor market.” 

Young adults typically contribute 22% of a multigenerational household’s income, according to the report, which also found the most common multigenerational housing arrangement to be that 68% of individuals live in the home of a parent or parents. Another 15% were living in their own home and had a parent or other older relative living with them, while 14% were living in a home headed by a family member other than their parent, such as a grandparent or sibling, or by an unmarried partner or a roommate. 

Fry said the housing stock has kept pace with the country’s population growth over the past five decades, and the average size of a household has actually decreased.  

The report relied upon data from the Current Population Survey administered annually by the U.S Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics. It included data from about 63,000 households.  

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