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More Seniors Living With Kids, Relatives: Census

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By Aditi Mukherji, JD on November 19, 2013 1:17 PM

Harkening back to a more traditional familial structure, more seniors are living with their children and relatives, according to two new Census reports. If you think it's because of the economy, guess again: It's because of changing demographics.

Here's what's driving the multi-generational household trend:

  • More foreign-born seniors. The share of seniors born in another country is rising. According to The Wall Street Journal, it's already gone from 8 percent in 1994 to 13 percent in 2013. This is significant because foreign-born seniors -- particularly those hailing from India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Mexico, and China -- are four times more likely to live with their children. Roughly 1 in 4 foreign-born seniors in the United States live with relatives, whereas only 6 percent of U.S.-born seniors do.
  • Seniors are living longer. The share of seniors who are 80 or older has grown from 22 percent in 1994 to 25 percent in 2013. This matters because seniors are more likely to live with relatives if they're older. According to the Census, 15 percent of seniors 85 and older live with relatives, versus a mere 6 percent of seniors 65 to 69.
  • More minorities. African American, Asian American, and Hispanic seniors born in the United States are all twice as likely as whites to live with relatives. Other factors that make seniors more likely to live with children include not being married, being female (women live longer), and living in a metro area with fewer seniors.

Lack of Opportunity for Self-Sufficiency

Though cultural mores may be a driving force behind multigenerational households, let's call a spade a spade: It's probably not a coincidence that individuals who belong to historically disenfranchised groups are more likely to live with relatives.

Despite having a valuable skills set, these particular seniors -- foreign-born, elderly, female, and U.S.-born minorities -- may be living with relatives because they are grappling with employment discrimination. It's also possible they are economically pressed and don't have enough savings to retire independently.

Unlike their white male contemporaries, for senoirs with little opportunity for self-sufficiency, living with relatives may be their only option.

Fortunately, many seniors and their relatives find living in a multigenerational household fruitful, fulfilling, and downright fun, as a writer for Chicago's WBEZ radio has explained.

After all, it takes a village, right?

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