Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Census: Big decline in nuclear family

Families are getting smaller. People are marrying later. More single parents have never been married.

Over the past four decades, the American family has been drastically altered. New data from the Census Bureau, released this week, shows just how much families have changed in recent years.

Here are some major changes demographers note about how American households changed between 1970 and 2013:

- Fewer family households: A family household includes two or more people living in the same home who are related by blood, marriage or adoption. Such groups made up 66 percent of American households in 2013, down from 81 percent in 1970.

- More people living alone: In 2013, 27 percent of households were one-person households, up from 17 percent in 1970.

- Decline in the nuclear family: In 1970, 40 percent of households were married couples with children. Such households made up just 19 percent of homes in 2013.

- Later marriages: The median age at first marriage was 29 for men and 26.6 for women in 2013, up from 23.2 for men and 20.8 for women in 1970.

- Smaller families: The average number of people per household dropped from 3.1 in 1970 to 2.5 in 2013.

- Fewer children: The average number of children per family declined from 1.3 in 1970 to 0.9 in 2013.

- Parents not marrying: Of children living with only a mother, 48 percent had a mother who had never been married in 2013, up from 7 percent in 1970.

The data for 2013 shows a broad picture of the country's households, and offered additional information about how children and their parents live today. Some key findings:

- Most children's parents are married: Of American parents who live with children under age 18, 76 percent are married, 16 percent have no partner and 8 percent live with an unmarried partner.

- Children in single-parent families most likely to live in poverty: Nearly half of children living with a single mother -- 45 percent -- live below the poverty line. Twenty-one percent of children who live with just their father live in poverty, while 13 percent of children living with both parents do so.

- Single-parent households more common for blacks, Hispanics: Fifty-five percent of black children and 31 percent of Hispanic children live in a one-parent household, compared with 20 percent of white children and 13 percent of Asian children.

- One-parent families more common in South: About 41 percent of the country's one-parent unmarried family groups with children are in the South. The Northeast had the smallest percentage of such families.

- Single moms more likely to raise children on their own: Two-thirds of mothers living with their children have a spouse present, compared with 86 percent for fathers. Twenty-five percent of mothers with children under age 18 have no partner present in the household, in contrast to just 6 percent of fathers.