A Room of Their Own: Couples Living as Subfamilies during the Great Recession

Sheela Kennedy, University of Minnesota
Rose M. Kreider, U.S. Census Bureau

This paper looks at couples who are difficult to identify in surveys: married and cohabiting couples living as subfamilies in another person’s household. Using the 2007–2012 Current Population Survey (CPS), we explore the composition of subfamilies and how their prevalence and economic well-being changed during the Great Recession. Cohabiting subfamilies peaked during the recession but married subfamilies did not rise until after the recession ended and remained elevated through 2012. The long-term unemployed and young couples are more likely to live in a subfamily. Although all subfamilies were economically disadvantaged compared with couples in their own households, cohabiting subfamilies experienced relatively greater economic hardships during the recession than married subfamilies. Consequently, moving into another’s household may be part of the trajectory young couples take in establishing their own households, as well as a strategy for coping with economic hardship.

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Presented in Session 202: Housing and Living Arrangements since the Great Recession