A home is not just a shelter to live in. A home is a place where one not only feels comfortable, but a place they look forward to live in every day. A home is the nurturing bond of family and friends. It is a space filled with values and foundation of nurturing and sharing. For Pi Issue 01 Love, Life, Home (Spring 2019), UX Researcher Jerad Lavey explores the spectrum of ages and people that are the make-up of our homes today.
According to the Population Reference Bureau, a household consists of “all the people who occupy a single housing unit, regardless of their relationship to one another.” Prior to World War II, more than 75 percent of households in the United States were married couples with roughly 1.8 kids. Today, that trend has changed significantly, giving rise to a number of different lifestyles, financial situations, and social dynamics that challenge how we define households and how we can design for them. In this article we will not dive into all of the different kinds of households, but we will touch on some of the more surprising segments and trends that might inspire new approaches for how we design for a quickly diversifying U.S. population.
Prior to World War II, more than 75 percent of households in the United States were married couples with roughly 1.8 kids. Today, that trend has changed significantly...
Today, roughly one in five Americans (over 60 million people) live in multi-generational households. According to the Pew Research Center, this trend, influenced most by the diversification of the U.S. population, is projected to continue to grow. Multi-generational households can vary but across the different types and privacy has emerged as a top priority. It is so important that builders are reporting significant changes in the kinds of custom homes that buyers are requesting. According to Inman, a news source for realtors and brokers, the housing market is responding to this rising demand for multi-generational homes across all demographic segments and geographical regions. Builders are responding by constructing more and more homes specifically designed to serve multi-generational occupants with private, self-contained apartment-like living quarters with bedrooms, full baths, kitchenettes, and separate entrances. Home buyers are making these requests so that multiple generations can live together under one roof while still maintaining individual independence and privacy. Based on current real estate trends (like the high demand and rising re-sale value for these kinds of multi-generational homes,) agents and builders are predicting that multi-generational homes may eventually become the dominant form of housing in neighborhoods across the country.
Based on current real estate trends, agents and builders are predicting that multi-generational homes may eventually become the dominant form of housing in neighborhoods across the country.
Surprisingly, millennials have now become the age group most likely to live in multigenerational households. A title previously held by adults ages 85 and up. Instead of setting out on their own after college, millennials are moving back home to live with their parents in record numbers. Sure, they love their families and there is something enticing about revisiting old memories in the house they grew up in, but reclaiming one’s childhood bedroom is not just motivated by nostalgia and a desire to reconnect with parents, it is a financial decision. Many millennials see this as one of the only routes to financial security especially since many are saddled with student debt, are holding out for a dream job, or are saving up for a down payment on an apartment in an expensive city, or perhaps even a down payment on a home. According to a recent study from the London School of Economics published in the Journal of Social Science & Medicine, while the move back home can be a smart move financially for adult children, it can have a substantially negative impact on their parents’ quality of life, emotional well-being, and financial security just before retirement.
Zillow defines doubled-up as households “in which at least two working-age, unmarried or un-partnered adults live together who might choose to live apart under different circumstances, financial or otherwise.” Or simply put, roommates with a transactional relationship. Over the past 10 years the number of people doubling-up has risen over 20 percent, with nearly 30 percent of all adults between the ages of 23 and 65 living in this type of household. According to Zillow, one possible explanation for this rising trend is “many young adults and recent graduates who flock to expensive coastal cities for job opportunities find themselves shacking up with friends, or sometimes complete strangers, to cut costs.”
For example, New York City, where nearly half of one’s income is spent on housing, leads this trend with 40 percent of adults needing to double-up to afford rent. Zillow’s data also shows that “Los Angeles, Miami, and San Francisco are among the top cities for adults living in doubled-up households and nearly half of adults in Los Angeles lived with a non-partner.” In an article published by The Atlantic, Susan Fee, a Seattle based therapist and the author of My Roommate Is Driving Me Crazy! found that “lack of chore division” and “poor communication”are the key reasons that many of these transactional doubled-up livingarrangements fall apart. She notes that “these relationships are not necessarily as intimate as friendships or romantic partnerships and it’s imperative to have clear definitions about whether this is purely a ‘financial transaction’ or if the roommates expect to have a social relationship too.”
Doubled-up and cohabiting partners have a number of similarities, but the defining difference between the two lays in their relationships. Cohabiting is defined as adults living together in an intimate relationship, as if married, usually without legal or religious sanction. Even though Cohabiting households currently make up a relatively small portion of population (roughly 14 percent), they are quickly on the rise. Within the past 10 years the number of cohabiters has risen roughly 30 percent, from 14 million to 18 million people. Within this segment there is a growing phenomenon that the Census Bureau refers to as the Gray Revolution. While the cohabiting trend is rising across all age groups, the fastest growing segment is a bit unexpected.
Within the past 10 years the number of cohabiters has risen roughly 30 percent, from 14 million to 18 million people.
According to the Census Bureau, “Older cohabiters have increased more than fourfold since 1967, to over 750,000 people today. To be sure, older cohabiters are still rare, totaling just 2 percent of adults 65 and older. But [they] expect their numbers to keep rising because baby boomers are more likely than prior generations to be never married or divorced as they enter older adulthood.” The Bureau anticipates this rising trend will disrupt traditional later-life living arrangements where divorced and widowed boomers begin cohabiting instead of remarrying. These cohabiting boomers are currently forgoing a marriage license and instead cohabiting with partners in more informal ways in search of companionship, to widen social circles, or to pool resources in order to gain financial stability. In an interview with the New York Times, an older cohabiting couple described how their cohabiting arrangement differed from their past married life: “’The relationship is looser,’ he said. ‘We don’t make demands on each other’s time. She has her life, I have my life, and we have our life together.’”
The days of designing just for the married couple with 1.8 children has quickly become a thing of the past.
Our world is rapidly evolving, and the changing economic, social, and geographic landscape means that people are adapting in many different ways just to keep up with the pace. The examples above are only meant to provide a tiny window into how these things are affecting household constructs. In our never-ending pursuit of being “Earth’s most customer-centric company,” we must continue to challenge our beliefs so that we ground our products and services in the real life situations and needs of our diverse customers. The days of designing just for the married couple with 1.8 children has quickly become a thing of the past.
Written for Pi by Sr. Design Researcher Jerad Lavey.
Curator of Pi // Patterns & Insights, Cameron Campbell, is a Design Forecaster, Curator and Strategist. Her key driver in life is to engage people and inspire creative growth through context, speculation, art, literature, objects, and technology. Want to know more about Pi? firstname.lastname@example.org