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The Return of the Multi-Generational Family Household
Pew Research Center
The multi-generational American family household is staging a comeback — driven in part by the job losses and home foreclosures of recent years but more so by demographic changes that have been gathering steam for decades.
As of 2008, a record 49 million Americans, or 16.1% of the total U.S. population, lived in a family household that contained at least two adult generations or a grandparent and at least one other generation, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of census data.1
This represents a significant trend reversal. Starting right after World War II, the extended family household fell out of favor with the American public. In 1940, about a quarter of the population lived in one; by 1980, just 12% did. A range of demographic factors likely contributed to this decline, among them the rapid growth of the nuclear-family-centered suburbs; the decline in the share of immigrants in the population; and the sharp rise in the health and economic well-being of adults ages 65 and older.
Since bottoming out around 1980, however, the multi-generational family household has mounted a comeback. The reversal has taken place among all major demographic groups, and it, too, appears to be the result of a mix of social and economic forces.
One is the change in the median age of first marriage. The typical man now marries for the first time at age 28 and the typical women at age 26. For both genders, this is about five years older than it was in 1970. One byproduct of this cultural shift is that there are more unmarried 20-somethings in the population, many of whom consider their childhood home to be an attractive living situation, especially when a bad economy makes it difficult for them to find jobs or launch careers.2
Another factor has been the big wave of immigration, dominated by Latin Americans and Asians, that began around 1970. Like their European counterparts from earlier centuries, these modern immigrants are far more inclined than native-born Americans to live in multi-generational family households.3
However, the trend reversal has also played out among native-born Americans. And for all groups, the move into multi-generational family households has accelerated during the Great Recession that began at the end of 2007. The Pew Research analysis of census data finds that in 20084, 2.6 million more Americans were living in such a household than had been doing so in 2007.
(18 March 2010)
Energy trumps the environment, poll finds
Samantha Thompson, Grist
The majority of Americans prioritize the development of energy supplies over the protection of the environment, a new Gallup poll has found, the first time this has happened in the question’s ten-year history. Conducted in early March, before President Obama’s announcement that he would open much of America’s coastlines to offshore drilling, the poll’s results are consistent with the recent historical support for environmental issues, which peaked in 2007 and has been steadily declining ever since. Looking at the complete reversal of environmental and energy priorities over just three years, it’s hard not to wonder if Obama was in tune with the shift–and if it played a role in his decision to reneg on his campaign promise to ban offshore drilling.
(6 April 2010)
Study: health tends to improve during recessions (PDF)
Jose´ A. Tapia Granados and Ana V. Diez Roux, Procedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (PNAS)
Title: Life and death during the Great Depression
Recent events highlight the importance of examining the impact of economic downturns on population health. The Great Depression of the 1930s was the most important economic downturn in the U.S. in the twentieth century. We used historical life expectancy and mortality data to examine associations of economic growth
with population health for the period 1920–1940.
We conducted descriptive analyses of trends and examined associations between annual changes in health indicators and annual changes in economic activity using correlations and regression models.
Population health did not decline and indeed generally improved during the 4 years of the Great Depression, 1930–1933, with mortality decreasing for almost all ages, and life expectancy increasing by several years in males, females, whites, and nonwhites. For most age groups, mortality tended to peak during years of strong economic expansion (such as 1923, 1926, 1929, and 1936–1937). In contrast, the recessions of 1921, 1930–1933, and 1938 coincided with declines in mortality and gains in life expectancy. The only exception was suicide mortality which increased during the Great Depression, but accounted for less than 2% of deaths. Correlation and regression analyses confirmed a significant negative effect of economic expansions on health gains.
The evolution of population health during the years 1920–1940 confirms the counterintuitive hypothesis that, as in other historical periods and market economies, population health tends to evolve better during recessions than in expansions.
(28 September 2009)
Ammunition for the idea that there health benefits for a less affluent way of life. -BA