Continuity and Change

Multigenerational families in nineteenth-century America

a1 Minnesota Population Center and Department of History, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Article author query
ruggles s   [Google Scholar] 


Revisionist historians maintain that the aged in nineteenth-century America and north-western Europe usually preferred to reside alone or with only their spouse. According to this interpretation, the aged ordinarily resided with their adult children only out of necessity, especially in cases of poverty or infirmity. This article challenges that position, arguing that in mid-nineteenth-century America coresidence of the aged with their children was almost universal, and that the poor and sick aged were the group most likely to live alone. The article suggests that the decline of the multigenerational family in the twentieth century is connected to the rise of wage labour and the diminishing importance of agricultural and occupational inheritance.