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Moving In With Family Becomes A Safety Net In The New Economy


Moving In With Family Becomes A Safety Net In The New Economy



Last week, our friends at Pew released a new report detailing the rise in the number children living with grandparents since the onset of the recession. According to the Pew report, 10 percent of children lived with a grandparent in 2011, and the vast majority of those (80 percent) also had a parent present in the household. While this trend is a result of long term economic forces that have left the middle class struggling to keep up, the recession exacerbated those underlying causes and led to a dramatic rise in the number of inter-generational households. As a previous Pew report found, “in the years of the Great Recession, the multi-generational household population shot up, increasing by 4.9 million, or 10.5 percent, from 2007 to 2009. During this time, the overall population grew only 1.8 percent. As a result, the share of the population living in multi-generational households increased to 16.7 percent in 2009, up from 15.4 percent in 2007.” That proportion continued to rise and by 2011 the number of children living in a household with a grandparent reached 7.7 million.

The economy of inter-generational households is not limited to grandparents taking in their children and grandchildren.  Family has become a new national safety net for college graduates facing declining job prospects and rising student loan payments, families facing unexpected unemployment, and older adults whose shifting fortunes forced them to move in with their grown children. The stereotype of basement-dwelling twenty-somethings does not nearly characterize the full extent of an economy that has reversed the long 20th-century trend of nuclear family households.

In our own tracking for Democracy Corps, we find that half of all voters (51 percent) say that they or their families have moved in with a family member or had a family member move in with them in the last year.

Democracy Corps began tracking multi-generational households last summer, when the issue emerged so poignantly in a series of focus groups we conducted on the economy.

We wrote:

They are consumed with the costs of things and how to adjust creatively to this new economy. That includes moving back in with an ex, moving in with a parent or the kids moving in with you. The creative economy of necessity has forced many people to adjust their living situations:

I live with my first husband, which is not the greatest thing in the world but anyways, I do have two children, 31 and 26. The oldest has three kids who lives with us…And I’m hoping to get this job so I can get out of the house.  (Non-college-educated woman, Columbus, OH)

Right now I live with my family. I moved to Columbus two years ago…And I’m unemployed right now.  (Non-college-educated woman, Columbus, OH)

Have two kids, one’s a high school junior, the other is 26 years old, both living at home.(College-educated man, Bala Cynwyd, PA)

My daughter is back with me at home, she’s 25 … Very expensive and in this day and age to try and get a college education, a lot of young people can’t afford to be on their own. (Non-college-educated woman, Columbus, OH)

When we returned to Columbus and Orlando this summer, we found that more and more middle-class families are adapting to the new economy by sharing housing with friends and families.  As one woman in Orlando told us, “I moved my mom in with me last month. I am currently supporting my mom; her factory shut down and she was on unemployment.”

Measuring the economy in this way—inter-generational housing—may well be a better indicator of our nation’s economic health than the stock market or GDP.  As last week’s anemic jobs report showed, the economy is still a long way from healthy—something we hope Congress will consider as partisans prepare for another potential showdown on the budget.

Photo: A. Currell via Flickr.com



  1. Bill September 12, 2013

    The GOP doesn’t care about the average person or the people who are suffering right now, they only want to stop everything the President tries to do. They will try to shut down the Government again to try to stop millions of people from getting Insurance. Maybe they can get the Rich another Tax Break!!!

  2. Mark September 12, 2013

    The GOP also doesn’t understand the damage to the employment situation due to all the jobs shipped overseas. They allowed this to happen, then have the nerve to characterize people on food stamps and other government assistance as “lazy and shiftless!” The other damage resulting from the loss of jobs shipped overseas, and the part the GOP will never talk about is all the tax money being kept out of the U.S. treasury…money being parked in offshore accounts never to see the light of day in this country unless the corporations are amnestied from back taxes. If that one ever happens, every working person in America should march on Washington, drag our elected representatives from their offices, and place them on permanent unemployment!

    1. Russell Byrd September 12, 2013

      That reminds me of the phrase from F.D.R.’s economic guru, John Kenneth Galbraith, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in
      moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification
      for selfishness.”

      If the GOP admitted the truth that they put their pants on the same way as we do, they would have no rationale for existence.

  3. Beaulieu6 September 12, 2013

    The Republicans are the one to held accountable to have driven America into a recession in 2007 as they have caused many damage to our economy, they have favor Wall Street over Main Street, the Whealthiest 2% percent the Millionaire and Billionaire over the Middle-Class 98% percent and the poor living below poverty line. The GOP are also to blame for the Sequastration in 2011.
    In 2003 during the Bush Administration they have borrowed from the Middle-Class Social Security to give a tax cut to the Wealthiest 2% percent, the Millionaire and Billionaire in which the Middle-Class 98% percent were left paying a higher tax because of that.
    The Republicans are giving billions of dollars in subsidies to Big Oil Corporation as those Corporation are making billions in profit, this practice as to stop as that money belong to the taxpayers.
    The Republicans obstruction and gridlock are no longer acceptable as the GOP have to be remove from office in the 2014 mid-term election, they must be replace by Democrats and Speaker Boehner R-Ohio must give back the gavel to Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi D-California.
    The GOP gave themselves a raise but refuse to raise the Minimum Wage from $7.25 to $10.00.
    Let’s face it the GOP are holding progress hostage they should be held accountable for all the damage they have done since in office, this is why they should be removed and replace by Democrats.

  4. Beaulieu6 September 14, 2013

    Once again the Republicans are threating to close down the government in defunding Obamacare, even in my home state of Florida Senator Marco Rubio R-Florida is trying hard to defund Obamacare, but the Republicans will not succeed as there is one million strong in support of the Affordable Car Act, in which the majority of the American people are supporting Obamacare.
    I have signed many petition in support of the Affordable Care Act in which I’m standing with President Obama, and the majority of the American people in strong support of the Affordable Care Act.
    The GOP are waisting their time debating to defund Obamacare in which they don’t have a plan therefore the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and it is here to stay.

  5. 4sanity4all September 26, 2013

    Half of all voters have moved in with a family member or had a family member move in with them. Wow, I did not realize that the number was so high, although my college educated daughter is unemployed and living back home now, and I am aware that a lot of people are in the same boat. We are a hard working family, and will always take care of our own. I am sure that many families are, like us, taking care of our own without government assistance. So if you added our numbers to all those that have sought government assistance, then you would see that this recession is worse than the numbers indicate. Republicans that call people lazy, and say that they should ‘just get a job’ have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.


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