Young Adults in U.S. Are Much More Likely to be Living in a Multigenerational Household
As successive generations of young adults in the United States cope with rising student debt and housing costs, multigenerational living is increasingly providing a respite from the storm. A quarter of U.S. adults ages 25 to 34 resided in a multigenerational family household in 2021, up from 9% in 1971.
Multigenerational living – that is, living in a household that includes two or more adult generations, typically consisting of those ages 25 and older – has increased among all age groups over the past five decades. But the increase has been fastest among adults ages 25 to 34. In 1971, similar shares of adults across age groups lived in a multigenerational household, but by 2021, young adults were far more likely than older Americans to have this type of living arrangement.
The growth in multigenerational living among 25- to 34-year-olds has been especially pronounced among those without a college degree. Multigenerational living has tripled among these young adults, compared with doubling among young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree. In 1971, the prevalence of multigenerational living among young adults was similar regardless of educational attainment. By 2021, 31% of young adults who had not finished college were in a multigenerational arrangement – almost double the share of their peers who had completed at least a bachelor’s degree (16%).
A Pew Research Center survey conducted last October found that financial issues are a major reason why adults live in multigenerational households. Young adults who have not completed at least a bachelor’s degree tend to earn substantially less than those who have. Thus, financial pressures might at least partly explain why multigenerational living is more common for young adults with less education.
Living in home of parents is the most common arrangement
Since the Great Recession, much attention has been focused on the rising share of young adults who live in the home of one or both of their parents. That is, in fact, the most common arrangement for young adults in multigenerational households.
In 2021, 68% of 25- to 34-year-olds in a multigenerational home were living in the home of one or both of their parents. Still, 15% were living in their own home and had a parent or other older relative living with them. Another 14% of young adults in multigenerational households 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 (3%).
While the increase in multigenerational living among young adults since 1971 partly reflects the growing tendency of young adults to live in a parent’s home, these other arrangements are also contributing to the growth in multigenerational living. The share of young adults who live in a parent’s home rose from 8% in 1971 to 17% in 2021, while the share in other multigenerational living arrangements rose from 1% to 8%.
Regardless of whose home they lived in, most 25- to 34-year-olds living in a multigenerational household (86%) had a parent in the home in 2021. This included 47% who lived with two parents and 39% who lived with only one parent.
A 60% majority of young adults who were living in a parent’s home in 2021 were living with two parents. In contrast, a 56% majority of those who had a parent or another older relative living in their home had only one parent living with them; 27% had two parents living in their home.
Living arrangements also vary by educational attainment. A majority of 25- to 34-year-olds who were living in a multigenerational household and had at least a bachelor’s degree (57%) were living with two parents in 2021, compared with 48% of those with some college, 40% of those with a high school diploma and 35% of those who did not complete high school.
Adults ages 25 to 34 who lived in multigenerational arrangements tended to be economically better off if they live with two parents than if they live with one or no parent. The median household income of young adults living with two parents was about $113,000 in 2021, compared with less than $75,000 for those living with one or no parent in their multigenerational household, after controlling for the size of the household. Similarly, young adults in multigenerational households with two parents (3%) were less likely than those with one parent (10%) or no parent in the household (14%) to be in poverty.
The financial advantages from living in a two-parent household may partly reflect that the young adults living in this arrangement are more likely to have completed at least a bachelor’s degree than young adults living with one or no parent. Still, across most levels of educational attainment, young adults in multigenerational households with two parents are less likely than those with one or no parent to be living in poverty.
When it comes to financial contributions, the typical 25- to 34-year-old in a multigenerational household contributed 22% of the household’s total income in 2021. In households headed by the young adult’s parent, the young adult contributed 20% of the total income. In households headed by the young adult or the young adult’s spouse, the median share of total household income contributed by the young adult was 37%.