McALLEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — Multigenerational homes are making a comeback in the United States — where the phenomenon is especially prevalent in the Rio Grande Valley.

The homes, in which three or more generations of a family live together, can be found all over the United States but are particularly common in places with high costs of living, large immigration populations, or housing shortages, according to a report from Filterbuy, which ranked the Valley at the top of a recent report.

Based on crunching 2020 Census figures, the report placed the Brownsville-Harlingen and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission metropolitan statistical areas at number 1 and 2 in its ranking of midsize metros with the highest percentage of multigenerational homes.

In Cameron County, about 16.2% of homes have at least three generations of family living together; and about 16% of homes in Hidalgo County qualify as the same, according to the report.

Multigenerational homes were once very common

According to the Pew Research Center’s analysis of Census data, multigenerational homes were common in the 1940s before steadily declining until the 1980s.

“The number of Americans who live in multigenerational family households is about four times larger than it was in the 1970s, while the number in other types of homes grew by far less,” states the Pew Research Center in a March 24, 2022 report. “The share of the U.S. population living in multigenerational homes more than doubled over the past five decades.”

Are multigenerational homes a good thing?

Cultural traditions and norms aside, living in bigger family units is a strategy used by many Americans today to address poverty, which is a stark reality for many wage-earners in South Texas. Living together helps pool those paychecks together while keeping the monthly expenses of mortgages or rents within reason.

Income & Poverty in Cameron County
Median household income (in 2021 dollars), 2017-2021$43,057
Per capita income in past 12 months (in 2021 dollars), 2017-2021$19,371
Persons in poverty, percent24.6%
Census Quick Facts
Income & Poverty in Hidalgo County
Median household income (in 2021 dollars), 2017-2021$44,666
Per capita income in past 12 months (in 2021 dollars), 2017-2021$18,880
Persons in poverty, percent28.8%
Census Quick Facts

But according to Generations United, multigenerational homes are not specific to areas of poverty — nor to families in poverty.

“Multigenerational living is here to stay,” the advocacy organization said. “Therefore, it’s time for America to embrace this phenomenon as commonplace in American life among all socio-economic levels.”

More affluent families also live in multigenerational homes to address family care, whether for children or aging parents. Others cite practical benefits such as improving mental and physical health or even allowing members to continue their education, such as when pursuing an advanced degree.

Sometimes, it just comes down to enhancing family bonds and relationships, Generations United suggests.

The group suggests multigenerational homes provide a family strength — and therefore is a cultural strength that’s especially common in Latino communities such as the Rio Grande Valley.