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Category: Trends / Topics: Change Choices and Decision Making Demographics Family History Relationships Statistics Trends

This is Us

by Barbara Greenleaf

Posted: September 10, 2020

Norman Rockwell would paint some different family pictures today…



fksg.org

COMING MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14 - REGISTER NOW!

Most of my presentations are members-only events, but I do have one webinar coming up that’s open to the public. Called “The Adult Family: It’s Complicated,” this one-hour, free Zoom is part of Antioch University's continuing education series. It is scheduled for Monday, September 14th, at 1 pm Pacific time (4 pm Eastern), and you can register below:  

See also our report from the U.S. Census Bureau, "Homebodies," on the numbers and trends of couples living in the state where both were born.


We only have to look around us or among our own relatives to see that families today come in all sizes and shapes. They’ve been reconfigured by divorce, remarriage, cohabitation, adoption—often across racial and ethnic lines—and the weakening of taboos about “marrying out.” Still, for those of us in the older generation, it’s hard to let go of that Norman Rockwell/Leave it to Beaver image of the “ideal” American family consisting of father in his suit, mother in her apron, and their two perfect offspring who look just like them. As we used to say in New York, “fugedaboutit!” Here’s what’s really happening in U.S. households today, demographically speaking.   

Today's Families by the Numbers

  • It’s not your imagination. Now only 68% of all families with children under the age of 18 are headed by married couples. This is down from 93% in 1950.
     
  •  More children live with a single parent. Almost a quarter of all American kids under the age of 18 live in a household headed by a single parent, overwhelmingly the mother. This contrasts with a rate of 7% worldwide.
     
  • Marriage is on the wane. Following a decades-long trend, just half of U.S. adults were married in 2015, down from 70% in 1950.
     
  • While cohabitation is on the rise. As marriage declined, the number of people living with an unmarried partner rose 29% between 2007 and 2016.
     
  • Not to mention living at home. In 1960 only 20% of young adults aged 18-34 lived in their parents’ home. Today almost a third do.

  • What a change! Sixty years ago two-thirds of young adults lived with a “romantic partner” (wife, husband, or significant other).  Today only a third do, marking a significant historical shift.

  • “Silver Splitter” divorces going through the roof. While the divorce rate has hovered around 50% in the general population for decades, it is soaring among those aged 50 and older. In fact, the “gray divorce” rate roughly doubled between 1990 and 2019.

  • Three generations living under one roof. Finally, a record number of Americans, over 60 million, are living in households that include parents, grandparents, and grandchildren. In part the rise in multigenerational living is attributable to our Asian and Hispanic populations, which are growing rapidly and are more likely to have this sort of arrangement.


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Barbara is the author of eight books, including two of particular interest to seniors. She has given us permission to use material from her newsletter, "From the Desk of Barbara Greenleaf," to which you can subscribe on her website.

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Posted: September 10, 2020

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