Slightly More Seniors Living With Family
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was not unusual for older Americans to live with their adult children and grandchildren. But more seniors could afford to live on their own after passage of Social Security and then Medicare.
By the 1990s, fewer than 10 percent of people over age 65 lived with relatives, usually offspring. This number has crept back up to around 12 percent in recent years, according to an analysis by the Center for Retirement Research.
Economic disadvantage is the common thread among older people living in these multigenerational households, a new study finds. This held true whether the seniors moved in with their adult children and grandchildren or the offspring moved into their parents’ homes.
“Experiencing economic distress increased the odds of a senior forming a multigenerational household,” concluded researchers from Arizona State University and George Mason University.
Here are their main findings, based on an analysis of U.S. Census data for more than 49,000 people who were 65 or older between 1996 and 2008:
- Major life changes such as widowhood made seniors more likely to join a multigenerational home.
- Older people whose retirement income or net worth drops over a one-year period often move in with family. The average income for seniors in multigenerational households was about $1,800 per month, compared with about $2,300 for seniors living on their own or with spouses.
- For cultural as much as financial reasons, the researchers said, elderly Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians, particularly in urban areas, are much more likely to move in with their progeny than are whites. The analysis controlled for income.
- Once seniors join multigenerational households, they tend to enroll in social welfare programs such as Medicaid and food stamps. This could be happening for a number of reasons, said Arizona State researcher Deirdre Pfeiffer, including the inability of a senior head of household to afford her living expenses after family members, who are struggling financially, move in and drain resources. In other cases, adult children might become aware of their parents’ financial problems when everyone is living under the same roof and encourage them to apply for aid.
Sharing living expenses with family members doesn’t always solve a senior’s financial problems, the study suggested, and can even have a “destabilizing effect on seniors’ economic conditions.”
The research reported herein was performed pursuant to a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Retirement Research Consortium. The opinions and conclusions expressed are solely those of the author(s) and do not represent the opinions or policy of SSA or any agency of the federal government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of the contents of this report. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply endorsement, recommendation or favoring by the United States Government or any agency thereof.
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