By Sam Roberts, The New YorkTimes, August 27, 2013
The portion of American households made up of married couples with children under 18 fell to 20 percent from 40 percent from 1970 to 2012, the Census Bureau said Tuesday as it detailed other fundamental changes in family life.
The share of people living alone, meanwhile, rose 10 percentage points, to 27 percent.
The analysis also found that the recession profoundly affected American families from 2005 to 2011, resulting in a 15 percent decline in homeownership among households with children and a 33 percent increase in households where at least one parent was unemployed.
The recession also saw more mothers enter the work force and an increasing dependence on food stamps.
The number of households with an unemployed parent soared by 148 percent in Nevada and by more than 50 percent in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, New Jersey and North Carolina in those years.
“During the recession, economic well-being worsened for families with children,” said Jamie Lewis, a demographer in the bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch who helped write the analysis. “Even after the recession officially ended in 2009, these measures remained worse than before it began.”
The severity of the decline often depended on whether the parents were married. Nine percent of married families were living below the poverty line and receiving food stamps. The proportion among single-mother households was four times greater.
In another shift that might be recession related, a higher percentage of adults ages 25 to 34 lived in their parents’ home in 2012 than in the early 2000s. The share among men increased to 16 percent from 13 percent; among women, it rose to 10 percent from 8 percent.
Among people 18 to 24, women were more likely to be living with a spouse or an unmarried partner. Eleven percent of women and 6 percent of men in that age group were married; another 12 percent of women and 8 percent of men were cohabiting.
Of the nation’s 115 million households, 56 million were married couples and 32 million were people living alone (12 million of whom were 65 or older). Married couples made up 48.6 percent of households, compared with barely short of 50 percent as recently as 2010.
The analysis, drawn from the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey, found the proportion of women ages 65 to 74 living alone had halved, though only 45 percent of women in that age group lived with their spouse, compared with 72 percent of men.
Divorce rates may have been accountable for a sharp rise in the share of men ages 15 to 64 living alone, to 34 percent, from 23 percent in 1970.
The census found stark differences in family structure by race and ethnicity. Married couples made up 81 percent of Asian, 80 percent of non-Hispanic white, 62 percent of Hispanic and 44 percent of black family groups.
Twenty-eight percent of children over all live with one parent — 55 percent of black children, 31 percent of Hispanic, 21 percent of white and 13 percent of Asian. Still, 64 percent of all 74 million children lived with married parents — a decline from 69 percent just a decade ago.
“Over the last half-century, the trend in the U.S. has been toward smaller households, fewer family and married-couple households with children, and more people living alone,” said Jonathan Vespa, another co-author of the report. “Many of these trends reflect a rising age at first marriage and older adults who can live in their own home for longer.”
“A family postponed is not necessarily a family forgone,” he said.
Sixty-six percent of households in 2012 were family households — two or more people related by birth, marriage or adoption — compared with 81 percent in 1970. Among cohabiting couples with children, 51 percent lived only with the biological children of both partners.
The census survey found 605,000 same-sex couple households, married and unmarried, of whom 321,000 were female and 284,000 were male. Same-sex couples were more likely than opposite-sex married couples to both be college graduates (31 percent) and more likely to be of different races (12 percent).