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The Multi-generational Household

Hannah Rice moved back into her mother’s home after two years of living on her own not just to be closer to family, but to gain a more steady financial ground. Living at home with the support of her family has made her life easier.

Hannah, a junior transfer student at Ball State University, is one of many students living in a multi-generational home. Hannah lived in Arkansas for about seven years. There, she attended an art school for high school and lived with her father. About a month into college, she moved out of her dad’s place and lived on her own for her last two years in Arkansas.

She then moved to Muncie to live with her mother. For Hannah, moving back home was more for family and college as opposed to financial reasons, but the move did have a positive impact on Hannah’s financial situation. “I’ve been away from my family for so long and it’s just so much cheaper [living at home].”

There has been a recent increase in multi-generational homes. These homes can expand beyond just the nuclear family to include cousins, aunts and uncles, and even grandparents.

Pew Research Center found reasons people live in multi-generational homes range from the physical health of a relative, to ethnic traditions and financial stability.

Scott Hall, a professor in family and consumer sciences, said that when there is an economic downturn, it is expected that more young people will move back home. They can save large amounts of money by doing so, while they look for a job, or a better job.

Pew Research found that multi-generational households have been increasing in recent years, in part because of the Millennial generation, who are graduating college and facing tough financial times.

At this age, living with a parent offers the opportunity to truly get ready for the future. Hannah, being a working college student, has a lot on her plate and living with family makes her life easier. Moving home to live with her mom not only helped her save money, but it also decreased her stress.

Because Hannah has the security of her working mom, as well as a job of her own, she says she does not have to worry as much about her finances, or necessities like food and utilities. She said in Arkansas, she had to worry about water and electricity. In Indiana, she can shower as long as she wants, do as much laundry as she wants, and stress less overall.

Hannah said she wants to move out after graduation, but not every student will or can. After real estate became difficult to acquire due to the real estate bubble of 2006, young adults were no longer able to afford living in current real estate situations.

Though Hannah does not have to pay rent, she said she does offer assistance around the house. She keeps the house clean, helps her mother pay for groceries and utilities, and says she is happy to do it. Her mother works 80 hours a week and isn’t home too often. In Hannah’s eyes, keeping the house up is the least she can do, especially because she is living for free.

Hannah’s multi-generational arrangement has made it possible for her to save money.

“I’m able to save $300-400 every paycheck,” Hannah said. Since living with her mom and saving money, she was able to buy a 2015 Kia Soul. Unfortunately, Hannah ran into car troubles on the highway a couple weeks ago, leaving her without transportation. Living with her mom has given her the opportunity to save enough money, for use in emergency situations, such as replacing her car.

Scott said young people having a child can also affect living arrangements. “An adult child – especially one raising a child of one’s own – [may] move back home,” Scott said. “Divorce could be a factor for a young adult as well, if one were to marry while in college or shortly after.”

Another reason families are living in multi-generational homes, is due to prior family practices. In the 1970s, different ethnicities moving from foreign countries to America caused a spike in the amount of multi-generational homes around the country, according to Pew Research.

Moving home was a good experience for Hannah. She recommends that if a student can and has the need, they should consider it, even though sometimes it can be hard.

Scott said the difficulty comes when young adults have to transition from being independent to living with their parents again. “Moving home can be a real challenge when young adults have already lived independently,” Scott said. “They can feel caught between a sense of being an adult and being a child because of the familiarity of the family environmental patterns established in the past.”

Hannah can relate. She said her mom still views her as a kid, so having friends over is hard, especially when they are guys.

Millennials moving back in with their parents has the potential to promote financial stability and a sense of security. While there may still be families in multi-generational homes solely for the sake of living with their loved ones, research shows the most widespread reason is financial aid for those still recovering from the recession or college debt.

It may not have been Hannah’s first choice but like many Millennials living with their parents, she is grateful for the financial and emotional support from her mother that allowed her to be better prepared for her future.

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