INED researcher tells us about intergenerational family co-residency.
(Interview from October 2016)
What does the term “intergenerational family co-residency” cover and what proportion of the French population is concerned?
The term “intergenerational family co-residency” refers to two generations of adults from the same family living in the same housing unit. This could be parents who house and support an adult child, or an adult child who has a parent or parents come to live with them and provides assistance to them. Having two generations live under the same roof may be a way of pooling family resources. The Famille and logements [Family and housing] survey conducted in 2011 with 360,000 persons and connected to the French census found that nearly 8% of respondents aged 30 and over with at least one living parent were living with a parent.
What characterizes intergenerational family co-residency?
The difficulty encountered in this survey was that though the data collected does tell us in most cases who moved in with whom—in 38% of cases, an adult child moved in with one or both parents; the reverse situation accounts for 32% of cases—it does not tell us which party is assisting which. But knowing who went to live with whom does allow us to hypothesize: there is a higher probability that the person who goes to live with another family member is the assistance recipient than the other way around.
In this connection, cohabitation at an early age (i.e., when the adult child is between 30 and 55) not only involves being housed by one’s parents but is also likely to be associated—for the adult child, his or her parents and the neighbourhood environment alike—with relative economic and social precarity. The upper social categories, meanwhile, are more likely to have their parents come to live with them, as are persons living in rural surroundings or small cities. This holds for cohabitation at later ages, which takes place in larger, better-equipped homes.
We can also make the general observation that men are more likely than women to be concerned by intergenerational co-residency. This result is strongly correlated with age. For adult children up to age 55, family cohabitation is more frequent among men. Above this age, adult daughters are more likely to cohabit with their parents, generally to care for them.
Is this a new phenomenon?
The practice became less common over the twentieth century as living conditions improved (development of health insurance and retirement programmes, generational residential independence, etc.). But that doesn’t mean it’s disappeared; in fact, it has taken on new forms. In France, intergenerational co-residency is a situation that may correspond to one of two distinct forms of solidarity: the more common one of taking care of older people who are losing their autonomy, and the often unrecognized one of helping younger people in precarious circumstances. And American studies have shown that these types of arrangements were again put in place during the most recent economic crisis.