Extended households, extended version

Following up on previous news that the recession was bringing people closer together – physically, at least – and a little literature review.

There is little doubt now that household structure has changed in response to the financial crisis and recession, partly because of its overall severity and partly because of its concentration in housing and real estate. There is general evidence of doubling up, as well as a specific trend toward children living with their grandparents.

The Washington Post has a story with some new numbers from the 2010 Census on extended families in the DC area, and a photo essay on one guy living with his parents.

The story quotes sociologist Frances Goldscheider, whose work on extended households goes way back:

“We haven’t seen anything like this since the Depression,” said Frances Goldscheider, a Brown University sociologist who has studied families and living arrangements. “Overwhelmingly, it’s the recession’s effect on people’s ability to maintain a house. You have the foreclosures on one hand, and no jobs on the other. That’s a pretty double whammy.”

Goldscheider has been studying young adults leaving home and returning home for many years. It’s a great subject for studying families and social change, as it involves the interaction of economic and normative processes. Some of her relevant older articles are:

  • “Pathways to Independent Living in Early Adulthood: Marriage, Semiautonomy, and Premarital Residential Independence” (Demography, 1989)
  • “Coming Home Again: Returns to the Parental Home of Young Adults” (Population Studies, 1990).

She also has used patterns in living arrangements to study family relationships, especially involving gender and care work. See, for example:

  • “Less Help for Mother: The Decline in Coresidential Female Support for the Mothers of Young Children, 1880-2000” (Demography, 2006).

That study of living arrangements was a model for some of my own research, including this:

3 thoughts on “Extended households, extended version

  1. Good question, thanks. What I mean by that is the expectations people have for each other and their obligations and desires with regard to living arrangements. For example, when is it good / right / desirable for adults to live with their parents (and in whose home)? Lots of different views on that, lots of implicit or explicit negotiation – and then the ground shifts when the economy makes sudden turns.


  2. It seems not too long ago “empty nesting” was a popular buzzword and now it’s come full circle. Extended family living has usually been more popular outside the U.S. but with so many immigrants it’s becoming more commonplace. The recession helps fuel it but so does an aging population. It’s seems like a perfect storm of circumstances today. The way things look, this will probably continue for quite a few years in the future.


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