Grandma’s in the Basement (and Jr’s in the Attic)

Posted on June 20, 2011


If you start to hear strange noises from your attic or basement, don’t worry that you have been invaded by squirrels, mice, or zombies.  Chances are more likely that it’s either one of the people who birthed you or who you, in turn, birthed. 

 According to the Atlantic Monthly, which gets its data from a recent Pew Center report, the number of Americans ages 25 to 34 living withtheir parents has jumped to about 5.5 million—a figure that accounts for roughly 13 percent of that age range. In addition to this 13%,there is what is estimated to be another 25-30 percent who have returned but haven’t informed their parents.  They are living in crawl spaces, garage lofts, tool sheds and recycling bins. 

Compounding this full-house phenomenon, the grandparent generation is “doubling up” too, as the sociological literature says. According to the Pew report, “The Return of theMulti-Generational Family Household,” during the first year of the Great Recession, 2.6 million more Americans found themselves living with relatives; all told, 16 percent of the population was living in multi-generational households—the largest share since the 1950s.

 When asked by an Atlantic journalist to elaborate on the research findings, an official at the Pew Center said, “We have the same problem here.  Some adult children and parents of our Boomer employees are living in the employee cafeteria.  We keep running out of snack foods and toilet paper.”

 Slate magazine, writing about this trend from the young person’s point of view, acknowledges that living at home can be a real crisis.  Slate asks a riveting question: “How do you date, invite friends over, feel like a grown-up going to a job interview, when your mom is polishing your shoes?” Unfortunately,the question couldn’t be answered because 25 percent of the young adults interviewed for the article didn’t have moms who would be willing to polish their shoes.  The remaining 75 percent didn’t know what “polishing one’s shoes” meant.  

 Reality TV is already planning a new show entitled, “There’s Always Room for More,” in which young, male, good-looking, burly contractor-types and young, female, even better-looking interior design experts, with the help of the families themselves,  transform modest three bedroom, 1.5 bath homes to accommodate these new, multi-generational families.  The highlight of each episode is when grandparents decorate their grandchildren’s living areas and grandchildren do the same for their grandparent’s.  Show producers are having a tough time with this segment, because thus far, each generation, upon seeing their new living space, has then quickly found other places to live.

Posted in: family, research, satire