- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 28, 2008

During the 1990s, a common cultural observation was that our families were living further apart, and it made observers fearful. The trend appeared to be social fragmentation. Every generation had its own pad, so to speak. If a twenty - something lived with their parents after college that was considered a failure to launch. Older Americans lived in and died in nursing homes, not with family. A hundred years ago in America, Americans did not live separately, three generations might all live under the same roof and geographic separations were not common.

Today, American families are returning to living together for economic and cultural reasons. Multigenerational families have risen by 60 percent since 1990, according to www.togetheragain.com. It is easy to see why children would live with parents after college as they earn money for a home or establish a career. However, the new Census Bureau American Community Survey shows that the number of parents in households under age 65 was up 75 percent between 2000-07. It would appear that families are choosing not to put the older members of the family into nursing homes as often. Maybe parents today are seeing the benefit of having a grandparent or two around to help raise the kids. The idea of parents moving back in with the kids sounds like a fanciful comedic television sitcom plot. It just happens to be a reality in a time of changing economic stability.

A changing demographic could be part of the trend, too, as new immigrant groups arrive in America. These groups, like many of the immigrants who passed thru Ellis Island, are likely to have more than one generation in one household. The cost of rent or a mortgage, especially in metropolitan areas, makes living with family a good idea. It is not uncommon to see siblings sharing an apartment. In general, the Census shows that more people, even non-family, are doubling up to make the rent each month. There has been an 8 percent increase in the number of non-relatives living together. That does not mean that the number is entirely made up of couples living together without the benefit of marriage. The number of people living with a housemate or roommate increased from 3,874,787 in 2006 to 4,132,274 in 2007.

Furthermore, the Web site www.about.com claims that more single women than single men are buying homes. One of the top three reasons single women buy homes is a desire to be closer to family. It appears that Americans are on a trend toward familial habitation, resulting in closer community. And that’s a good thing.

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