Households Doubling Up

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Written by: David Johnson, US Census Bureau

In coping with economic challenges over the past few years, many of us have combined households with other family members or individuals. These “doubled-up” households are defined as those that include at least one “additional” adult – in other words, a person 18 or older who is not enrolled in school and is not the householder, spouse or cohabiting partner of the householder.

Evidence of Doubling Up in Response to the Economic Downturn, 2007 - 2011 The Census Bureau reported today that the number and share of doubled-up households and adults sharing households across the country increased over the course of the recession, which began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. In spring 2007, there were 19.7 million doubled-up households, amounting to 17.0 percent of all households. Four years later, in spring 2011, the number of such households had climbed to 21.8 million, or 18.3 percent.

All in all, 61.7 million adults, or 27.7 percent, were doubled-up in 2007, rising to 69.2 million, or 30.0 percent, in 2011.

Young adults were especially hard-hit, with 5.9 million people ages 25 to 34 living in their parents’ household in 2011, up from 4.7 million before the recession. That left 14.2 percent of young adults living in their parents’ households in March 2011, up more than two percentage points over the period.

These young adults who lived with their parents had an official poverty rate of only 8.4 percent, since the income of their entire family is compared with the poverty threshold. If their poverty status were determined by their own income, 45.3 percent would have had income falling below the poverty threshold for a single person under age 65.

Each year, the Census Bureau asks people in roughly 78,000 households about their income in the Annual Social and Economic Supplement to our Current Population Survey. If you are one of them, remember that your answer is very important and kept in strict confidence. This information helps our nation address the many problems of poverty and find solutions.

To learn more about poverty at the local level, you can consult results from the American Community Survey, which has statistics from counties, cities and smaller areas.

To access all of our poverty data, visit our website.

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10 Responses to Households Doubling Up

  1. Richard F. Wolf says:

    These are trying times, doubling up is
    an intelligent way to help Survival, and almost cutting it in half.
    Rich and Carol

  2. Isaac says:

    This is a great post – thank you! Would you please help identify the particular data set so that I can get a time series?

  3. Mike B) says:

    Looks like the last Great Depression to me.

  4. NJ says:

    Interesting but was 2007 “doubled-up percentage” typical or unusually low because of the housing boom? It would be nice to know what the long term trend has been as this may be give us a clue if this represents hope for the housing market.

  5. Markey says:

    Doubling up counted by including a 18 year old not in school? So if your child is 17 one month and 18 the next, then this is a doubled up household? What was the trend in this for the nonrecession periods? Pretty strange definition.

  6. the_kcar says:

    Perspective: Technical [17/18, depending on region] or legal adult is or has the potential to be “Head of Household”. Kids do not qualify, and secondary spouses/cohabitative partners do not qualify as “Head of Household”
    Now count: how many potential heads of household reside in your house? In the apartment down the street? In the homes in your neighborhood?
    “Doubling up”. Misnomer. If the grandbabies are technical adults, and the 1.5 car garage has been renovated to a spare apartment that isn’t independently leased, then another term has to be developed for the current phenomenon.
    “Stacked families” has been bandied about as a term. So, re-count the wage earnings of potential heads of households as a base form for determining percentages of wealth distribution, then requalify given statements.
    Your Results May Vary.

  7. Annamarie Pluhar says:

    Is there any chance of getting a number for the rate of doubling up in the 1970′s? or 60″s (that would be a 50 year comparison)
    And is this really right? Before the recession in Spring of ’07 17% of all households were doubled up? If that’s right, that’s astonishing and indicates a much larger trend than I’d been aware of.

  8. Laryssa Mykyta says:

    In 2007, 17 percent of households had an additional adult, ie a person aged 18 or older who was not enrolled in school and who was not the householder, the spouse or cohabiting partner of the householder. By 2011, 18.3 percent of households had an additional adult.
    Because of changes in our measures of relationship to householder and improvements in identifying cohabiting partners in the survey, we do not have comparable data going back to the 1960s or even the 1970s. We calculated a historical series going back to 1988, although we cannot identify cohabiting partners in this series. Therefore, in this series, cohabiting partners of the householders are counted as additional adults and households in which the householder has a cohabiting partner would be defined as shared households, even if the household only consisted of the householder and their cohabiting partner. Using this series, the percent of shared households was 20.5 percent in 1988, 21.7 percent in 2007 and 23.6 percent in 2011.

    • Michael Ullman says:

      Using the definition, the group considered doubled-up is so heterogeneous
      as to make it nearly pointless. Are we talking extra young adults? Disabled children/family members? Elderly parents returning home ?

      In addition, the cultural differences in “doubling up” is so vast that they trend toward fewer “white family” might naturally increase the doubled-up percentage even in “good economic” times.

      Lastly, among other issues, the doubling up sounds like there are sleeping on the floor or in the living room (good heavens) – if there are extra bedrooms – which there are in the US (there is likely 1.5 bedrooms for every person in this country – its just distributed poorly) – then its good and GREEN that they take advantage of these extra bedrooms – especially since the “white culture” is softening on the issue of moving out immediately after high school.

      There are likely gender differences (females may be doubling up more – both younger and elderly).

      Calculating the poverty rate of these “doubled up adults” is again fairly worthless unless you have more characteristics of them (e.g. disabled, elderly) – if they don’t have to pay rent and food – they most people will earn less – unless they are both doubled-up and a moron!

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