How Covid has impacted Asian American multigenerational homes

Chelsey Gao’s grandmother is 84, has myriad health issues, speaks no English and has not left home at all since the pandemic revved up.

a group of people sitting at a table

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Mother and daughter, then, are the designated emissaries to the outside world. Gao, 23, headed to Ohio in January for a new job as a data analyst, and had big plans to travel internationally with friends on her “new adult income.” But after the coronavirus tightened its grip on the U.S., she moved back home to live with her mother and octogenarian grandmother in the Atlanta suburbs.

“I just figured it would be a lot easier to be able to be back home with a support system,” Gao said. “Being isolated was not an ideal situation.”

Her 53-year-old mother, who was born and raised in China, received unemployment after being furloughed in March. That cushioned the blow, but she still worried: “If the unemployment lasted for longer, or perhaps she was laid off from her job, she [felt] comfortable knowing that I could provide [financial] support for our family,” Gao said.

a person standing in front of a mountain road: Image; Chelsey Gao. (Courtesy of Chelsey Gao)

© Courtesy of Chelsey Gao
Image; Chelsey Gao. (Courtesy of Chelsey Gao)

They are among the ranks of Asian Americans who live in multigenerational homes — a tradition in some cultures and one increasingly complicated by the threat of a pandemic that’s taken a unique and multifaceted toll on the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

A Pew Research study found 29 percent of Asian Americans lived in a home with two or more adult generations or grandparents and grandkids under 25 in 2016 — more than other ethnic groups. By comparison, 27 percent of Hispanics, 26 percent of Blacks and just 16 percent of whites had that kind of setup.

Living in crowded quarters can be difficult enough

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