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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Multigenerational Coresidence 1989-2010: The Composition, Trends and Dynamic Structure of Three-Generation U.S. Households
by Pleau, Robin Lyn, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2012, 192; 3544796
Abstract (Summary)

This study highlights how larger social, economic and demographic contexts affect family housing arrangements at the start of the 21st century. I use 1989-2010 March Current Population Survey data to examine the composition, trends and formation of multigenerational households, defined as three generations coresiding or a grandparent-grandchild dyad. This dissertation shows how and why individuals rely on parents or adult children for housing support, and how the "tripling up" of generations through the formation of multigenerational households is activated along lines of race, class and gender. Multigenerational coresidence is more common among traditionally vulnerable populations, such as young adults, women, racial minorities, the sick, the unemployed, and those residing in the lower strata of the socioeconomic hierarchy. Those who are relatively more privileged—those who are married, with more years of education, better health and higher income—are more likely to be found in the idealized two-generation nuclear family household configuration, or the increasingly preferred one-generation "solo" arrangement.

The prevalence of multigenerational coresidence increased over the 1989-2010 period. Population aging, lower marital rates, higher unemployment rates, and shifts in the country's racial composition had positive effects on rates of multigenerational coresidence, but these positive effects were counterbalanced by the strong downward pressure of rising educational attainment. Importantly, Blacks' likelihood of living in these households declined in recent decades, while whites' likelihood increased.

The primary driver of multigenerational living arrangements today is the youngest adult generation's need for housing due to shocks of employment, parental status or marital status, and not the oldest generation's need for housing. Women, nonwhites and those in poor health tend to remain in multigenerational homes from one year to the next. Women and men are equally likely to transition into multigenerational households, but women are more likely to remain.

My findings challenge some assumptions around why multigenerational households are formed, while at the same time they are consistent with literatures on rising inequality and changing patterns of young adulthood. I conclude by asking how the longer-term secular upward trend in rates of multigenerational coresidence might reshape American ideals of independent living.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Shauman, Kimberlee
Commitee: Hamilton, Erin, Smith, Vicki, Stevens, Ann
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Sociology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 74/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Individual & family studies, Social structure, Demography
Keywords: Boomerang generation, Coresidence, Household structure, Independent living, Intergenerational coresidence, Multigenerational, Multigenerational households
Publication Number: 3544796
ISBN: 978-1-267-75980-1
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