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Feb 10Liked by Jim Dalrymple II

Such a good point! One of the things I loved about your essay at IFS was that it’s not necessary to wait for government to fix stuff. Instead you can locate the “locus of control,” within yourself which is psychologically a much better place to put it.

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I'm so glad you caught that! I touched a little on policy in that piece, but tbh the project here is sort of intentionally not about systemic change. Of course I hope there is systemic change, but I've tried to focus less on policy and more on things that individuals can do — because waiting for some huge shift tends to take a looong time.

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Feb 9Liked by Jim Dalrymple II

Great piece

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Thank you!

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Mar 5Liked by Jim Dalrymple II

I want to agree with this piece. But while I like the theory (and I'm a huge fan of stronger extended family connections), I haven't seen this work very well in practice. This is on my mind because we just visited some of our relatives whose adult children all live at home. We have several cousins on that side of the family who have chosen to stay at home into their 30s for financial reasons. It's saved them money, but it's been debilitating for their growth. None of those cousins have gotten married, sought advanced education, achieved career goals, or developed independent social lives.

To be clear, I have other relatives who struggled in their 20s and were unable to move out, and for them living at home was a huge benefit. But for those who could have moved out and chose not to in order to save money, there ended up being hidden costs to their personal growth, which ultimately has altered the overall trajectory of the family's intergenerational success. I guess what I mean is they chose short term financial advantages over longterm investments in the future success of the family.

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Agreed, I've seen that kind of thing as well: Adults who rely on their parents being stunted in various ways. I'll have to try to find some data on this, because I'm curious if anyone has sat down to empirically figure out if that's common (vs something like the Kennedy approach, where nepotism is a tool of upward mobility over time).

I think my short response is that for this to work there's needs to be a cultural shift where living with one's parents isn't treated as a deadbeat option. I suspect right now it wouldn't work for most people (in America) because that's such an atypical and stigmatized life path.

The longer response is that I also think this probably doesn't work well if you don't plan ahead for it. So, if your kid turns 20 and just kind of loafs around in your house, that's probably not great. But if you've brought you kid up to believe the house is a piece of communal property for the benefit of the collective group, etc etc etc, I suspect outcomes might be different. The Kennedys, to again cite an extreme example, were plotting their rise over multiple generations. Ergo, it takes time to really develop a culture of intergenerational cooperation.

I think an underlying issue is that, at least in my experience, it's extremely difficult to create a true family village after the fact. If you have a 20 yr old kid and haven't brought them up with a village mindset, it's too late. It's sad, but I just don't think you can get a bunch of WEIRD adults sufficiently on the same page. So you end up with mooching, not cooperation. I think that's why most of us westerners who want to start a village have to be founders; it's just too late to for us to actually do it with parents+adult siblings (of course there will be exceptions, but in general).

The other issue that I think arises here is the nature of work. Where were those freeloading deadbeat adults working? And critically, what were their PARENTS doing? Historically, if you lived on a farm, if you didn't work you didn't eat. I think part of the problem is that parents are working wage labor jobs that don't provide a pathway into the workforce for their kids. If I'm a professor or a journalist or a HR manager, my kid can't work along side me. I think this idea of living together across multiple generations is going to work way better if the kids are given a natural entry point into the workforce, if their work is framed as a contribution to the family (not just themselves), and (harsh as it may sound) if they understand that if they don't work they don't eat. Everyone contributes.

(apologies for typos, Im writing this quickly while taking care of our 2 yr old ha)

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Mar 10Liked by Jim Dalrymple II

I think you're right about the cultural and economics shifts we'd need to better support family villages (and I love that entire thesis of your project here).

For an example on the other extreme, a while back my sister, who was 30, came and lived in our basement. It was amazing for all of us: my kids loved her, I liked having her around to help with evening childcare, she paid rent which helped us out with the mortgage, we charged her lower-than-market rent so she saved money, I cooked for all of us. It was an ideal pooling of resources and a taste of having the larger extended-family village that I dream about.

Culturally, it did feel a little weird, as you've mentioned. And economically you're right, this was an unusual setup with everyone working at their independent careers, not together on a shared business. The other shift I would have needed to be totally happy with the setup is to bring back arranged marriage :)

The whole time she was here I worried that by filling her social life, we were preventing her from dating opportunities, making it harder to start her own family (and build our extended family). But if creating a marriage is an individual effort, you probably need individual time and space to seek that - if it's a family affair, it probably makes more sense to stick close to home.

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Super interesting that you had that experience. How long did your sister live with you?

This reminds me of the housing component of all of this: Perhaps if we had houses that were better suited for extended family living if we could get rid of some of cultural baggage — and maybe have both community and autonomy at the same time. In my mind, the homes from the movies Coco and Encanto are useful examples of what might work (there are lots of real-world examples, but I figure most people have seen one of those movies).

Another thought: Most of us westerners tend to be very skeptical of arranged marriage, but for any other big decision (hiring an employee, choosing academic advisors, hiring a lawyer, etc) we vet people pretty thoroughly. It makes sense in my mind that a family would vet potential spouses, since that's an even bigger decision! Probably impractical, but it makes sense in my mind.

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Feb 9·edited Feb 9Liked by Jim Dalrymple II

Man, it seems so obvious now that you say it... but letting young adults live with parents if possible and agreeable, saving on rent, is not nothing! It seems that our ideal and norm of individualism --a complete severing of that village in geographic and day-today-ways-- has left many parents thinking the *only* way to help out kids is literally cash support or gifts. But like you said, sure, maybe we won't all be able to do that outright, but some of the benefit is there in simply saving them rent, for instance. That adds up, too.

It also requires some foresight and adjusting our imaginations and expectations for that to even be an option. For many people, it's not even on the radar! It wasn't for my family, really, except for my older brother who didn't exactly thrive in college and needed some help getting his feet off the ground in adulthood. But the intergeneration model of support shouldn't be a "last resort", and I wish I didn't have that attitude about their arrangement at the time.

Great piece!

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Totally! I think that "imagination adjustment," though hard to quantify or pin down, would go a long way to making a difference. I'm reminded here of this line from a recent Brad Wilcox piece: "Family first, me second. This is the paradoxical route to happiness in marriage." I think that's probably true for life in general, not just marriage, and it's a useful lens (at least for me) to make major decisions.

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Great article! This has certainly proved true for my husband and I. We didn't live with our parents in our 30s but we each lived with our parents until we got married at 24 and 25. This allowed us to save money on rent. My husband saved money and was able to buy aand pay off a cheap piece of land and then put an old mobile home on it that his dad helped him set up. When we got married we were able to live there debt free for the first several years of our marraige which set us up for future financial success. Our parents are not rich but each had various skills that they help us in various ways. I believe that supportive family is on of the greatest blessings.

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