The U.S. Department of Labor is reporting the hard news that our unemployment rate is just under 9 percent. If you think that's bad, take note of Spain, a country experiencing a 17 percent unemployment rate that's rising. But unemployed Spaniards aren't sleeping in cars and under bridges. They are moving in with family. Spaniards show more reluctance than Americans generally do to move away from family to take a job elsewhere - a fact that has been used to help explain Spain's less productive economy. But that same reluctance keeps them from facing the harshest effects of economic downturns …

Many white Americans commonly assume that once children and parents go their separate ways, they should keep those ways relatively separate. Good parenting is captured by mother robins that push their children toward independence by knocking them out of the nest. We encourage our children to move out and away and our parents to retire in the Sunbelt or in a community filled with other older folks. If they come back home, we interpret it as a sign that something has gone wrong.

Yet the autonomous, nuclear family is a rather new arrangement in the scope of history, and Africa, Latin America, the Mediterranean - as well as Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans in the U.S. - still practice extended family living, and are comfortable with extra adult family members coming and going. Recent trends in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom show more young-adult children moving back in with parents, and more parents moving in with adult children.

Our daughter Megan Anna and son-in-law Luke moved into our home this week for a yet-to-be determined time. They've just landed in Oregon after finishing a grad-school stint in the East, ...

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