The multi-generational American
family household is staging a comeback, according to a new Pew
Research Center analysis of Census data. Driven in part by job
losses and the recession, it has nevertheless been gathering steam for
decades. It’s also initiating a disturbing trend among the ranks of some
right after World War II, the extended family household fell out of
favor with the American public. In 1940, about a quarter of the
population lived in one; by 1980, just 12% did. But as of 2008, a record
49 million Americans, or 16.1% of the total U.S. population, lived in a
family household that contained at least two adult generations or a
grandparent and at least one other generation.
That trend has been fueled in part by
young adults — especially those aged 25 to 34. In 1980, just 11% of
adults in this age group lived in a multi-generational family household.
By 2008, 20% did.
In another recent study by the
National Survey of Households and Families, one-in-10 adults aged 18 to
34 (10%) say the poor economy has forced them to move back in with Mom
and Dad. The AFL-CIO released a study last fall titled “Young Workers: A Lost Decade” that found that about a third of workers
under 35 live at home with their parents.
This trend has huge implications —
both good and bad — for society and employers. Certainly, one
significant benefit is that despite a generation gap that is at its widest gap ever, the tension between generations is easing.
While disagreements over texting and tattoos rage, the bond between
different generations is rebounding. The intensity of discord between
Baby Boomers and parents 40 years ago is almost a non-issue today
between parents and their kids. In fact, a parent’s best friend is often
their child and vice versa.
But a serious concern arises when it
comes to the approach some employers are taking to this new trend. I’ve
heard more than once from a manager that they feel they can pay a lower
wage to a young worker living at home because they don’t have “all those
expenses I had when I was their age.” That’s not only unfair but
discriminatory. Why should it matter where an employee lives? Would you
pay more to a worker who owns a big home with an oversized mortgage and
is living with four children and two aging in-laws? I don’t think so.
And yet paying a young college grad that just moved home to save some
money a lower wage because they “don’t have any big bills” is exactly
the strategy several employers are taking.
That’s not only disturbing but
stupid. Rationalizing that you’re doing a young adult some sort of favor
by offering him or her a lower wage based on whether they own, rent or
live-at-home is discriminatory and has virtually nothing to do with
hiring the most qualified candidate for a job.
Where do managers come up with these