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U.S. household growth slows, but it's a mixed bag for the Mountain West

Colorful multi-story homes in Daybreak, Utah with a vast cloudy sky in the background.
Jason Finn
Getty Images

News brief

A Pew Research analysis of census data shows that growth in U.S. households during the last decade slowed to its lowest pace in history.

The researchers found that during the 2010s, there was only a 9% growth in occupied households, or about 10 million more. It’s the lowest rate in recorded U.S. history and the lowest number of new households since the 50s.

A dip in population growth was one reason they cited, but not the only one.

“Pew has documented the rise of multigenerational family living. That’s where you got multiple generations of adults living under one roof,” said Richard Fry, a Pew Research senior economist who co-wrote the analysis.

He said that kind of living situation is more common in the fastest-growing U.S. groups: Hispanic and Asian Americans.

Older Americans aren’t living alone as often, either. While they used to use savings to live alone and afford privacy, Fry said that’s not the case anymore.

“It peaked in the 1990s. Increasingly, older Americans (65 and older), they’re not living alone. They’re increasingly likely either to be married or live with their adult children,” he said.

He said housing costs are also outpacing inflation, which means some people just can’t afford to live on their own.

That’s bad news for some areas because new, occupied family homes and apartment buildings mean more jobs and economic opportunities.

“When you have a new housing unit, you need more furniture, you need more appliances, you need more cable subscriptions,” he said.

But in the Mountain West, many states far exceeded the average rate of household growth. Utah had the highest rate in the nation at 20%. Idaho and Nevada are up there, too, at 17%.

At the same time, Wyoming and New Mexico had some of the lowest growth rates at 4% and 5%, respectively.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Nevada Public Radio, Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Madelyn Beck was Boise State Public Radio's regional reporter with the Mountain West News Bureau.

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