Professor Natasha Pilkauskas' research details the rise of the new American household

February 8, 2019

There is an emerging trend for American households as the nucleur family comprised of a father, mother, and children is on the decline. Three-generation households in which three generations live under one roof are becoming more and more common. Today, roughly one-in-10 children live with at least one parent and one grandparent. While researching the living structure of such households and its effects on children in such environments, Professor Natasha Pilkauskas of the Ford School found that the rise of three-generation residences is not localized to one demographic. According to Professor Pilkauskas’ research, not only are such households the sole rising trend, but that that trend remained present “at all income levels.”

A February 4, 2019 article from HOUR Magazine by Lakshmi Varanasi entitled “Three Generations, One Roof” focused on Professor Pilkauskas’ research. One such cause is the decline in marriage rates and the increase of unmarried mothers across all racial demographics. “Single parenthood is a significant factor in explaining the increase of three-generation families” says Professor Pilkauskas. Single parents, in search of “childcare and financial assistance” often turn to their own parents for such relief.

Another factor Pilkauskas identifies is demographic changes, as whites become the minority in the U.S. Professor Pilkauskas found that “Every group besides white folks has much higher rates of co-existence.” As such, we can expect the rate of three-generation households to continue to increase.

Additionally, Professor Pilkauskas’ research identifies Social Security as a considerable contributor to the increase of three-generation households. While Social Security was intended for people to be able to live independently, the steady income for grandparents establishes a financial safety net for their children and grandchildren.

While Professor Pilkauskas offers several potential causal factors, she maintains “the exact reasons for this rise remain ambiguous.” Nevertheless, it appears that the three-generation residencies will continue to supplant nuclear families in American households.

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An associate professor of public policy for the Ford School, Professor Pilkauskas’ work focuses on how social policy affects the developmental and life trajectories of low-income children, especially those that live with their grandparents. Other areas of her research consider the links between maternal employment and school outcomes, the effectiveness of the Earned Income Tax Credit, as well as the effects of the Great Recession on low-income households.