Why multiple generations of families choose to live together -- and why it's not a bad idea

Moving back in with the folks used to be a white flag of defeat. But attitudes are shifting, as a record 57 million Americans now live in some sort of multigenerational configuration. That number has doubled since 1980, according to the Pew Research Center. Today, the hilarious and touching memoir Bettyville—about a gay New York City editor who loses his job and returns to small-town Missouri to live with his 91-year-old mother—is capturing the nation’s attention and the best-seller lists. Could America be in the midst of a new-fashioned “Kumbaya” moment?

In 2012, 22.6 million, or 36 percent, of all young adults ages 18 to 31 (the millennials) were living with their parents. Factors contributing to this migration include the recession of 2007-08, the rising costs of attending college and a growing inclination to delay marriage. In 2012, only a quarter of millennials were married, down from 30 percent in 2007.

Stephanie Carlo, 23, an occupational therapist, spent five years getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Boston University. Last September, she moved back home to her parents’ place in Florida while she completed a three-month, unpaid clinical internship. “It was purely a financial decision at first,” says Carlo. “But I was surprised to find that my parents and I now have a friendly, adult relationship. They offer career advice and aren’t overbearing—there’s no time, all three of us are working long hours.” Carlo is now planning to extend her stay for another two years.

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