The COVID Baby Boom that Wasn’t, & the Rise of the Multigenerational Household

By Lauren Rosales, Content Writer

The pandemic heralded forth with a series of contiguous stay-at-home orders in many places. Even in those cities and towns where such orders were never officially issued, few businesses remained open to beckon people from their homes in any case. With so much time newly spent at home, speculations tittered forth half-jokingly regarding a potential “COVID baby boom.” However, now that we are over two years out from those initial enforced lockdown measures, the actual data tells a different story about the peak COVID months.

Here’s the thing: uncertainties of every kind aren’t exactly great for conception rates. With loss of (or decreased) income, fewer folks feel comfortable starting–or growing–a family. Add a public health crisis and its resultant school and daycare closures, not to mention the desire to steer clear from crowded hospitals? In June 2020, taking all of these issues into account, the Brookings Institute estimated that 2021 would see 300,000-500,00 fewer births.

The Brookings Institute, it turns out, was onto something. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 34% of American women either put their plans for having children on hold, or reduced the number of children they were planning to have altogether, due to the pandemic. Moreover, those who were already undergoing fertility treatments were forced to pause as clinics closed; the resultant backlog led to delays from 6 months up to an entire year. The birth rate, already declining before the pandemic, waned further. Ultimately, there were about 7,000 fewer births in the United States in the first nine months of 2021. One notable exception to the dwindling rate occurred in New England–particularly New Hampshire, which saw a 17% increase in births in 2021.

However, the labor market recovered much more quickly than had been anticipated based on historical precedents. In addition to which, the government’s multiple stimulus payments to families and individuals enabled many to stay better afloat in the precarious time. So while births dropped at the beginning of 2021, they increased by 4% in the second half of the year. In fact, the birth rate rose for the first time since 2014! This upward trend is not expected to last, however; rather than a “baby boom” of any kind, many are calling it a “blip.”

COVID aside, there are many factors that are contributing to the declining birth rate. As women have increasingly undertaken advanced education beyond high school and planned career trajectories, they are less likely to start a family in their early to mid-twenties. Moreover, improved access to free birth control has sharply decreased the number of unintended pregnancies, particularly in would-be single mothers.

Yet even as it seems that a great many households do not wish to increase their size with additional (or potentially any) children, another trend suggests that they are growing their numbers in a different manner. An analysis of census data from 1971-2021 shows that the amount of people living in multigenerational households quadrupled in those three decades.

Part of the logic behind this shift points to growing racial and ethnic diversity in the United States; multigenerational living arrangements are much more common in Asian and Hispanic cultures, both of which are currently the fastest growing demographics in the country. But as millennials grapple with historic levels of student debt and through-the-roof housing costs, they are returning home to live with their parents in higher numbers than previous generations. A quarter of adults aged 25-34 in the United States lived in a multigenerational household last year. In addition, consider the simultaneous childcare and eldercare crises; as the price of both daycare and assisted living facilities skyrocket, having a grandparent at home can be a financial boon.

During COVID, some of these pre-existing issues were exacerbated. For example, with daycares closing frequently due to exposure of pupils or instructors, working parents were frequently at a loss as to how to handle childcare. And the isolation within nursing homes or assisted living facilities took an enormous toll on seniors’ mental health. A grandparent living at home with their adult children would be much less likely to suffer from loneliness, and in addition could provide the much-needed childcare for parents attempting to work.

There’s no question that our understanding of a “typical American household” has shifted over time. The pandemic might be responsible for a portion of these changes, but many of these modifications have been in the making for decades. If you are growing the members of your household–whether they be babies, adult children or elders–you may be interested in renovations to accommodate your new living arrangements. As you consider a myriad of methods to finance this venture, remember that a Unison equity sharing agreement may be the perfect fit for your situation. Unison can help you tap into your home equity for the funds you need to expand or alter your home, giving you cash now in return for a percentage of your home’s change in value when you sell it. Plus, if you work with licensed contractors and fully document the project, you may apply for a Remodeling Adjustment, which if granted would result in Unison subtracting any added value from its eventual share. Sounds good? Learn more about using an equity sharing agreement to renovate your home today!

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