The figures represent a significant reversal in American lifestyles after decades in which extended-family households fell into disfavor and the nuclear family flourished in the suburbs.
“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.”
The number of adult children living with their parents — one slice of the phenomenon — soared in the Washington suburbs and in the District compared with a decade ago. The biggest increase was in Virginia, which experienced a 45 percent leap. In Maryland, the jump was 40 percent; in the District, 29 percent.
Although the faltering economy is a major factor in the newfound togetherness, demographers and sociologists say the recession accelerated a shift that was already underway. Fueling the trend: baby boomers caring for aging parents, and the arrival of millions of Hispanic and Asian immigrants, who are more likely to live among several generations under one roof.
In the Washington region, blacks, Hispanics and Asians are all more likely than non-Hispanic whites to live in extended-family households. But all groups registered increases over the decade, in patterns that reflect cultural differences.
Blacks are more likely to have grandchildren living with them. Asians tend to have their parents in the house. Hispanics often share their homes with more distant relatives such as aunts and uncles or with people who are not relatives. Non-Hispanic whites have more adult children at home.
Two years after earning a physics degree from Carnegie Mellon University, Adam Schloss, 25, has moved back into his childhood bedroom in his parents’ house in Rockville. He worked for a while on political campaigns in Pittsburgh.
But when he got no job offers after sending out dozens of résumés, he quit resisting his parents’ entreaties to come home. He pays them rent from his earnings as a computer technician. He is taking classes in software development and is saving money for a place of his own. Many of his friends are living with their parents, too.
“It’s not because we want to,” he said. “In many cases, we may have no other choice. Either we’re unable to get a job, or, if we get one, we can’t afford to live on our own.”
Schloss’s sister has just graduated from Brandeis University. “She’ll probably be moving home, too,” he said.