The multigenerational household.

American family and household structures have much greater variety than fifty years ago, and multigenerational living is on the rise.

Multigenerational living has a big influence on housing prices in Silicon Valley.  A fourth bedroom for the grandparents, either permanently or temporarily, raises the value of a home considerably.  That’s why I never use the sales price of three-bedroom homes when estimating the likely selling price of a four-bedroom home.

According to the infographic, here’s how today’s living arrangements differ from those of fifty years ago:

  • a higher percentage of adults live alone or with unmarried partners
  • fewer adults live with spouses

These differences come partly from a much greater acceptance of unmarried partners, but also from rising divorce rates, declining marriage rates, and the deferring of marriage.  And the greying of America:  people are living longer, and the huge boomer generation is entering its golden years.  The older you are, the more likely you are to live alone, especially if you’re female.

Curiously, considering all the stories about millennials living with parents, the percentage of adults living with a parent hasn’t changed in fifty years.

Guys were crashing with a parent even in 1967.

Now a detour down Memory Lane:  You probably don’t remember what the typical family living arrangement looked like in 1967, but I do, at least as a young teen saw it–and kids internalize cultural norms far more completely than adults, since they lack adult skepticism.

Back then there was a mom and a dad, always, except the one time in ten it was just a mom because the dad had disappeared poof! without notice or explanation.  Single moms worked, but married moms usually stayed home to raise the kids and volunteer.  Living with an unmarried partner was bound to raise eyebrows, and living alone past the age of, oh, say 30, was a strong indication that you were having more fun than social convention allowed.  As for seniors, comfortable retirement had replaced work-’til-you-drop, and grandma and grandpa, more affluent and in better health than their parents at the same age, were less likely to be living with relatives and more likely to be whooping it up at one of the new active retirement communities in the Sun Belt.

Tell me 1967 was a good year and I won’t argue, but I won’t agree either.  The innocence and certainty you remember is just the certainty of innocent youth.  Fifty years ago life was complicated, conventional society felt threatened–with good reason–and we were even more polarized than today.

Yes, 2017 has its challenges.  No, not everyone is better off than they were, or would have been, fifty years ago.  But, on balance, things is lookin’ up.

copyright © John Fyten 2017



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