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11.1% of island families double up

The rate is the highest in the nation, far above the average of 5.6 percent

Ron Lockwood shares his two-bedroom condo in Moiliili with four family members from three generations.

Suffice it to say quiet time is in short supply.

“It gets hard,” said Lockwood, 63, who lives with his wife, 25-year-old son, 22-year-old daughter and her 2-year-old son. Lockwood also cares for his grandson during the day so his daughter can go to work.

“I look forward to his naps so I can have some time for me,” he said.

U.S. Census Bureau figures released Thursday show multigenerational families like the Lockwoods’ make up 11.1 percent of all households in the state.

That’s by far the highest rate in the nation, and well above the national average of 5.6 percent. Multigenerational is defined as having three or more generations under one roof.

The second-highest rate was in California where 8.2 percent of family households were multigenerational.

The new census estimates cover a three-year period, from 2009 to 2011. This is the first year the bureau tabulated a three-year estimate for multigenerational family households.

When all households in the state are considered – including those with unrelated individuals – about 8.1 percent were multigenerational in 2011, up from 7.7 percent in 2009, according to census figures released earlier this year.

Nationally, 3.8 percent of all households nationally were multigenerational last year.

The new numbers are no surprise in a state that has long led the nation in the percentage of households that are multigenerational, but advocates say they are illuminating.

While there are advantages and disadvantages to living in multigenerational situations, they say, there’s no doubt that generations often opt to double up out of economic necessity.

“We can theorize that there is the emphasis on the ohana in Hawaii and taking care of your own, but also very likely what drives some of them is the cost of living,” said Ivette Stern, a junior specialist at the University of Hawaii Center on the Family.

Bruce Bottorff, associate state director for AARP-Hawaii, said Hawaii’s high cost of living, housing, medical care and long-term care all “tend to incentivize living with one another under one roof.”

Lockwood, chairman of the McCully/Moiliili Neighborhood Board and an AARP-Hawaii volunteer, said the high cost of housing is the biggest reason behind his family’s decision to live together.

Stern said while regular interaction with multiple generations does enrich family life, living in a full house can also strain relationships.

“If it is an overcrowded situation, that could be potentially not be such a good thing,” she said.

Among the positives are “intergenerational exchanges, sharing the language and the culture,” said Wes Lum, director of the state Executive Office on Aging.

He also said the number likely means Hawaii has fewer older adults living alone.

Bottorff said the new figures show “Hawaii residents are in many cases willing and able to provide much-needed support to their parents and grandparents or even more distant relatives.”

While multigenerational living can sometimes feel a bit cramped, Lockwood agrees it has its perks.

For one thing, he said, he gets to see his grandson grow up, day by day.

“The benefits are watching this boy develop,” he said.

The new census figures show that among multigenerational households in Hawaii, about 63 percent included a “householder,” or principal member, a child of the householder and a grandchild of the householder.

About one-third were cases in which a householder was living with at least one parent and at least one child.

Those percentages mimic the national average.

In all, about 35,000 Hawaii family households are multigenerational.

The census figures show multigenerational living in Hawaii was more common among Asian and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander families.

About 5 percent of white family households were multigenerational, the data show. By comparison, 18 percent of Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander family households and 13 percent of Asian family households had multiple generations.

Article courtesy of the Honolulu Star Advertiser, written by: Mary Vorsino POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Oct 26, 2012

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