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American Households Undergo Reconfiguration

Nuclear family households are slowly disappearing
November 2019

According to a new analysis of U.S. Census data by Apartment List, household composition – the way in which Americans organize themselves into households – is steadily changing.

Young adults are becoming much less likely to share their home with a spouse or children; instead, they are moving back in with parents, or living with roommates and/or unmarried partners.

A stark example are 26-year-olds: 50 years ago, over three-quarters were married and living with their spouse; today, this living arrangement has shrunk to just 24 percent. In 2018, there were 300,000 more 26-year-olds living with parents than spouses.

These trends mean that across the country, the nuclear family household is slowly disappearing. In 2018, the number of nuclear family households was the same as in 1984, when the United States population was 27 percent smaller. Nuclear families are becoming more expensive to maintain, and we see them declining in 20 of the nation’s 25 largest metropolitan areas.

Conversely, it is becoming much more common for multiple family units to live together under one roof. In some metros, these “unrelated” households have more than doubled since the start of the Great Recession.