From: Rohit Khare (Rohit@KnowNow.com)
Date: Mon May 14 2001 - 22:07:13 PDT
> The number of Americans living alone, 26 percent of all households, surpassed,
> for the first time, the number of married- couple households with children.
> in the 1990's the number of Chinese, Indians and Vietnamese doubled or
> nearly doubled in the decade.
May 15, 2001
Nuclear Families Drop Below 25% of Households for First Time
By ERIC SCHMITT, New York Times
WASHINGTON, May 14 ‹ For the first time, less than a quarter of the
households in the United States are made up of married couples with their
children, new census data show.
That results from a number of factors, like many men and women delaying both
marriage and having children, more couples living longer after their adult
children leave home and the number of single-parent families growing much
faster than the number of married couples.
Indeed, the number of families headed by women who have children, which are
typically poorer than two- parent families, grew nearly five times faster in
the 1990's than the number of married couples with children, a trend that
some family experts and demographers described today as disturbing.
The new data offer the 2000 census' first glimpse into the shifting and
complicated makeup of American families and carry wide-ranging implications
that policy makers and politicians are already struggling to address.
With more communities having fewer households with children, public schools
often face an increasingly difficult time gathering support for renovating
aging buildings and investing in education over all. Voters in Cleveland
last week approved $380 million in levies to fix city schools, but only
after two months of exhaustive lobbying by civic leaders.
"This may have something to do with why our education system is not up to
snuff," said Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
"Oftentimes, those parents who still are invested in the schools don't have
the money or influence to change things."
Demographers expressed surprise that the number of unmarried couples in the
United States nearly doubled in the 1990's, to 5.5 million couples from 3.2
million in 1990. Some of those couples have children.
Many conservative groups point to the increase as well as the statistics on
single-parent households as troubling indicators of deeper societal
"This data shows we need to regain the importance of marriage as a social
institution," said Bridget Maher, a marriage and family policy analyst at
the conservative Family Research Council. "People are disregarding the
importance of marriage and the importance of having a mother and father who
Ms. Maher and other conservatives point to the findings as justification for
the enactment of policies that they say would strengthen the family, like
eliminating the so-called marriage penalty in the tax code.
The decades-long decline in the overall number of American households with
children slowed during the 1990's as two of the most troubling trends ‹
divorce and out-of-wedlock births ‹ moderated, demographers said.
But even with that slowdown, the percentage of married-couple households
with children under 18 has declined to 23.5 percent of all households in
2000 from 25.6 percent in 1990, and from 45 percent in 1960, said Martin
O'Connell, chief of the Census Bureau's fertility and family statistics
branch. The number of Americans living alone, 26 percent of all households,
surpassed, for the first time, the number of married- couple households with
William H. Frey, a demographer at the University of Michigan, said, "Being
married is great, but being married with kids is tougher in today's society
with spouses in different jobs and expensive day care and schools."
The number of married-couple families with children grew by just under 6
percent in the 1990's. In contrast, households with children headed by
single mothers, which account for nearly 7 percent of all households,
increased by 25 percent in the 1990's.
The new census data paint a more detailed picture of the American family in
Unmarried couples represent 9 percent of all unions, up from 6 percent a
"It's certainly consistent with what we've all been noting, the growth in
cohabitation in this country, but it also tells us how complex American
families are becoming," said Freya L. Sonenstein, director of population
studies at the Urban Institute in Washington and a visiting fellow at the
Public Policy Institute of California.
The number of nonfamily households, which consist of people living alone or
with people who are not related, make up about one-third of all households.
They grew at twice the rate of family households in the 1990's.
Demographers pointed to several factors to explain the figures. People are
marrying later, if they marry at all. The median age of the first marriage
for men has increased to 27 years old from 22 in 1960; for women, it has
increased to 25 years old from 20 in 1960, said Campbell Gibson, a Census
Bureau demographic adviser.
The booming economy has allowed more younger people to leave home and live
on their own. Divorce, while leveling off, has left many middle- age people
living alone ‹ at least temporarily. Advances in medicine and bulging stock
portfolios have permitted many elderly people to live independently longer.
"It's easier for a young person to start out on his own or live in a group
home," said Mr. O'Connell. "And the elderly population is healthier and
economically better off."
Census officials said the median age of the country's population increased
to 35.3 years old, the highest it has ever been. This reflects the influence
of the so-called baby boom generation, born between 1946 and 1964. The most
rapid increase in size of any age group was the 49 percent jump in the
population 45-to-54 years old.
While an influx of immigrants and other foreign-born residents with larger,
younger families held down this aging indicator, several other statistics
underscore the demographic and marketing power the baby boomers wield as
they enter their peak earning years. For example, the share of
owner-occupied housing increased to 66 percent in 2000 compared with 64
percent in 1990.
"Baby boomers are driving the increase in owner-occupied housing," said
Jeffrey S. Passel, a demographer at the Urban Institute, a social policy
research organization. "Ten years from now, they will be pushing
pre-retirement homes, and 20 years from now they will cause the Social
The new census data also show that while there are still about 5 million
more women than men in the United States, men are narrowing the gap partly
because of improved medicine and greater health awareness by men, but also
because of slightly higher rates of lung-related deaths among women,
primarily due to increased smoking among them, demographers said.
The number of men for every 100 women increased to 96.3 in 2000 from 95.1 in
1990, largely because men are closing the life-expectancy gap with women. As
of 1998, the latest figures available from the National Center for Health
Statistics, women on average live 79.5 years, up from 78.8 years in 1990.
Men can expect to live 73.8 years, up from 71.8 years in 1990, Mr. Gibson
Within the refined demographic profile, there were also intriguing trends
among specific racial groups. For instance, the overall Asian population in
the United States grew by 48 percent in the 1990's, but the number of
Chinese, Indians and Vietnamese doubled or nearly doubled in the decade.
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