September 30, 2011

Fighting Poverty in a Tough Economy, Americans Move in with Their Relatives

51.4million

Large numbers of Americans enacted their own anti-poverty program in the depths of the Great Recession: 51.4 million Americans lived with relatives in 2009, an increase over the 46.5 million who did so in 2007.

Large numbers of Americans enacted their own anti-poverty program in the depths of the Great Recession: They moved in with relatives. In doing so, they helped fuel the largest increase in the number of Americans living in multi-generational households in modern history. From 2007 to 2009, the total spiked from 46.5 million to 51.4 million.

Living in a multi-generational household appears to be a financial lifeline for many. Although their adjusted incomes overall are lower than for those in other households, the poverty rate among people in multi-generational households is substantially lower than for the others — 11.5% vs. 14.6% in 2009, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data.

The potential benefits of living in multi-generational households are greatest for the groups that have been most affected by the Great Recession. Among the unemployed, the poverty rate in 2009 was 17.5% for those living in multi-generational households compared with 30.3% for those living in other households. Members of other economically vulnerable groups—young adults, Hispanics and blacks—who live in multi-generational households also experience sharply lower poverty rates than those in other households.

The number of Americans living in multi-generational households has been increasing since 1980, a process documented in a 2010 Pew Research report, “The Return of the Multi-General Household.” Demographic forces, including delayed marriages and a wave of immigration, have contributed to this steady rise, which amounts to about 2% annually from 1980 to 2006. However, during the Great Recession (2007-2009), the multi-generational household population shot up, increasing by 4.9 million or 10.5%. Read More