More parents are moving in with their young adult children, and they are doing it while they are younger, healthier and often still working.
One in four Americans aged 25 to 34 lived with parents or older relatives as of 2021, the fastest-growing segment in multigenerational households, according to data from Pew Research Center. Most of this group is adult children moving back in with their parents, but a significant number of older adults are moving in with millennials, said Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew. In 2021, 9% of multigenerational households were headed by a 25- to 34-year-old, up from 6% in 2001.
Some parents aren’t waiting for retirement or urgent healthcare needs to move in with adult children, the Pew data suggests. Known as the reverse-boomerang effect, the move is often driven by changing attitudes about family life, high housing costs and challenges in finding affordable child care, the researchers said.
Nearly one in five Americans lived in multigenerational homes in 2021, which are defined as two or more adult generations living under the same roof. Such arrangements were more the norm in the first half of the 20th century. But they fell out of favor as housing centered on the nuclear family and older Americans stayed healthier longer and had more money.
After bottoming out at 12% of Americans in 1980, multigenerational living has made a comeback in recent years, particularly after the 2008 financial crisis and during the pandemic, according to Pew.
The challenges of the housing market are also a factor. In 2022, 14% of all home buyers set up multigenerational homes, up from 11% in 2021, according to the National Association of Realtors. The pandemic drove an increase in demand for homes designed for multigenerational living, with separate living areas for older parents.
Having more generations in one household allows first-time millennial buyers to pool financial resources with older relatives, says Jessica Lautz, the NAR’s deputy chief economist and vice president of research.
Though the hallmark of independence was once living on your own, adults who asked older relatives to move in say it has advantages.
Last year, Darin Freeman, a 30-year-old who makes a living promoting home appliances, clothes and makeup on social media, bought a 3,300-square-foot home in Tampa, Fla., with her husband. The couple spent a year trying to convince her dad, Daniel Kane, and his wife and stepdaughter to move in with them and their two children.
Mrs. Freeman wanted to be closer to Mr. Kane, who lived in Safford, Ariz. She offered him a job managing her and her husband’s Amazon reselling business. They would pay him about $5,000 a month to communicate with manufacturers, keep track of inventory and test new products.
Mr. Kane, 48, says he was hesitant. His job in radio communications for a mining company paid $120,000 a year, but meant 12-hour shifts, a two-hour commute and crawling through narrow spaces.
“I’m turning 49. I’m tired of beating myself up to make someone else money. I’d rather beat myself up making my daughter money,” he said.
He also wanted more time with his daughter and his grandchildren beyond yearly trips, he said. He wanted to cook them breakfast and watch their soccer games and gymnastics practices. Mr. Kane and his wife have their own bedroom and separate bathroom, which he calls “his own little apartment.”
Sharing bills and space
The Freemans pay the mortgage. Mr. Kane shops for groceries, his wife cleans the house, and they watch the Freemans’ 7-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son. Groceries and utilities go on one shared credit card, which they split down the middle.
“For the first time we have endless amounts of help,” Mrs. Freeman said. “We have more time to do things that we enjoy.”
But with most of the adults working from home, it can be hard to find a quiet place to work, says Mrs. Freeman. She works from her bedroom, where she shoots videos and social media content.
As a child, Mrs. Freeman, who is half Filipino and half white, lived with her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She says that made her more comfortable with the idea of living with her father as an adult.
Mrs. Freeman’s husband also grew up in a four-generation household. She says he understood her desire to have her family closer, since many of his family members also live in Florida.
Pros and Cons
The majority of adults in multigenerational households say living with adult family members has been at least somewhat positive, according to Pew, although nearly a quarter said it was often stressful.
Since 2018, Simon DoQuang, 31, and his wife, Alexis DoQuang, 28, have lived with his father in a four-bedroom house in Ellicott City, Md. Mr. DoQuang’s father, Louis DoQuang, made the down payment and the younger DoQuangs pay the $2,425-a-month mortgage. Louis, 62, has Parkinson’s disease and often needs help. And Simon and Alexis, who are working parents with two children, found themselves looking for child care.
In the summer of 2020, they convinced Simon’s mother, Anna DoQuang, to move in, too. She had been living in Las Vegas, apart from her husband. The younger DoQuangs’ oldest son is 4 and goes to daycare, but they needed someone to watch their youngest. Simon offered to pay his mother every month to move in and care for their 2-year-old.
“It’s a blessing to see my grandson grow up,” Anna said.
Simon said his multigenerational living experience is bittersweet. His parents cook, clean and babysit on date nights. But what they are saving in child care and time is costing them in privacy.
“Sometimes I feel like we can’t really be ourselves as a family of four,” Simon said.
His mother says she also misses the privacy of living by herself but that it is too expensive. She says because Alexis’s work schedule changes every week, they need someone to look after their toddler and Louis.
Simon says he and his wife feel they have to keep public displays of affection around the household to a minimum.
“There’s a lot of pros and cons to it,” Simon said. “We’re thinking about possibly selling this house sometime next year so we can separate from my parents.”