Why mothers double up: The role of demographic, economic, and family characteristics

Hope Harvey, Rachel Dunifon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Objective: We examine how mothers' characteristics are associated with forming a doubled-up household as a host (allowing adult extended family members/nonrelatives to join their household) and guest (moving into a home owned/rented by extended family/nonrelatives). Background: Doubled-up households are increasingly common and shape families' lives in meaningful ways. Although doubling up is often considered a response to economic need, few studies directly examine the range of characteristics that may predict entry into doubled-up households. Method: Using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, we examine how demographic, economic and housing, and family characteristics are associated with mothers' risk of becoming doubled-up as hosts and guests. Results: Multiple factors have independent links to doubling up, including race/ethnicity, housing assistance receipt, and socio-economic status. Family factors are especially important; in particular, experiencing a new birth and having a young child are associated with doubling up as a guest, and romantic relationship changes are associated with doubling up as either a host or guest. Additionally, many predictors of doubling up as a host and guest differ. Finally, we find that almost one-third of adult mothers who are doubled-up as guests never transitioned into a doubled-up household; rather, they remained in their childhood home. Conclusion: A full accounting of when and why families double up requires researchers to attend to mothers' needs—and changes in these needs—across multiple dimensions and to distinguish between hosts and guests.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Marriage and Family
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 National Council on Family Relations.


  • families
  • family dynamics
  • housing
  • mothers
  • support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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