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Mom, Dad, Grandma and the Kids Under One Roof

Picture this: a car full of laundry baskets heaping with clothes, storage bins, bed sheets, school books, boxes of macaroni and cheese and other items that aren’t-really-nutritious-but-won’t-go-bad-and-you-don’t-even-have-to-cook-it type foods. Mom is holding back her tears because she can’t get over how fast eighteen years went, and Dad stands proudly, reminding his soon-to-be a college student to study hard and stay out of trouble. They wave goodbye as the car drives down the driveway, and then head back into their oddly quite home, their empty nest.

Unfortunately, not only is the scenario above a little bit cliché, it is pretty far from reality when it comes to the typical American living arrangement these days. In fact, the multigenerational home, in numerous combinations, has been on the rise since the 1970s. According to the Pew Research Center, 49 million Americans live in a household that has three or more generations living under one roof. That’s one in every six individuals, and over 16 percent of the population. Common living arrangements include young adults moving back home, adult children moving back in with elderly parents, and vice versa.

So, what happened to the empty nesters?  The decision to revive the notion of “one big happy family” and combine households, is often in response to financial hardships. The real estate firm, Coldwell Banker, noted that more frequently are buyers requesting homes that accommodate such families. According to a survey of 2,300 of the firm’s agents, top reasons for multigenerational homes include economic (particularly with the current recession) and health-related issues.

Cultural shifts change everything for marketers. Americans are opting to have less children, get married later, and now, get a little bit more cozy with the rest of the family. The person doing the household shopping isn’t who we necessarily expect it to be. Brand preferences are being shaped by new influencers. Toys ‘R’ Us stated that one in every four toys, four out of ten books, and one in five video games are purchased by grandparents, which makes sense. However, marketers didn’t predict shopping baskets consisting of diapers, beer, and denture adhesive bought by a coupon-clipping middle aged dad. This means marketers and manufacturers may start gearing products and promotional efforts towards multiple generations and these not-so-traditonal households.

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