How Family Structures Have Changed

Family Diversity is the New Normal for America’s Children is a paper which discusses changes in family structures from the 1950s to the modern day, and it had what I considered some interesting observations.

At the end of the 1950s, if you chose 100 children under age 15 to represent all children, 65 would have been living in a family with married parents, with the father employed and the mother out of the labor force. Only 18 would have had married parents who were both employed. As for other types of family arrangements, you would find only one child in every 350 living with a never-married mother

So, in the 1950s, out of 100 kids:

65 kids lived in a house where Dad worked, and Mom kept house
18 kids lived in a house where both parents were employed

65+18 = 83% of kids are raised in a house with married parents

and only 1% of kids had a never-married mother. (I’m guessing the never-married Dad rate was even smaller).

Today, among 100 representative children, just 22 live in a married male-breadwinner family, compared to 23 living with a single mother (only half of whom have ever been married). Seven out of every 100 live with a parent who cohabits with an unmarried partner (a category too rare for the Census Bureau to consider counting in 1960) and six with either a single father (3) or with grandparents but no parents (3).The single largest group of children – 34 – live with dual-earner married parents, but that largest group is only a third of the total, so that it is really impossible to point to a “typical” family

Today, out of 100 kids:
22 kids live in a house where Dad worked, and Mom kept house
34 kids live in a house where both parents work
4 kids live in a house where Mom worked, and Dad kept house

7 kids live in a house with unmarried partners (which was virtually non-existent in the 1950s)
23 kids live with a single mother, and 50% of those Mothers were ever married
6 kids live with a single father, or with just the grandparents

If you total this up, only 60% of today’s kids live in a house with married parents. I left the 7% of kids in a house with co-habitating partners out as often as not the situation involved a biological parent and their current partner and didn’t represent a stable, biological family structure.

Here’s a graph of all the “then” and “now” results:

Kids need a stable and predictable environment to grow up into healthy productive adults. If you take that away, all manner of problems follow. Given the dramatic drop in married-parent households from the 1950s today, the current social difficulties isn’t surprising.

The paper then goes on to discuss why family situations have changed – for those who’re interested in such things I recommend reading the entire paper.


About A Northern Observer

Joe Random Guy who lives north of a lot of things. My image is from the National Archives - Battle of Britain - Aircraft spotter on the roof of a building in London. St. Paul's Cathedral is in the background. 306-NT-901B-3.

One response to “How Family Structures Have Changed”

  1. donalgraeme says :

    Nice find. We really don’t live in the same world that they did.

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