Census 2000 Finds American Families More Traditional,
American Families: More Traditional
By LAURA MECKLER
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Ozzie and Harriet are not dead yet.
The prototypical nuclear family of black and white TV - where mom, dad and
their biological children all live together - may not be as endangered as it
sometimes seems. The percentage of children living in these traditional
families rose during the early 1990s, from 51 percent in 1991 to 56 percent
At the same time, other families became increasingly complex, with more
stepparents, grandparents and adoptive parents raising children, the Census
Bureau says in a report released Friday.
It's the second report on the living arrangements of children and updates
findings from a 1991 study. The new data examine the 71.5 million children
living in the United States in fall 1996.
The report, based on a survey of 37,000 households, both rejects and builds
upon common perceptions of increasingly fractured families. ``It's not
entirely a clear picture,'' said the Census Bureau's Jason Fields, the
Most unexpected may be the rise in the proportion of children living in
``nuclear families'' - where the children live with their biological mother
and father and no one else. But this does not necessarily mean that more
couples are staying together. Rather, as the total number of children
increased, more of them were being born into traditional households, Fields
That is partly because couples married or began having children later in
life, he said.
``People who delayed marriage for education or career and have decided at an
older age than in the past, `Now we're getting married,''' are now having
babies, he said. ``More marriages and more families are being formed, and a
lot of them are forming as these traditional nuclear families.''
In addition, births to teen-agers and to unmarried older women have fallen,
helping to slow a three-decade climb in the number of children living with
single parents. Still, one in three babies is born to unmarried parents,
making that child's chances slim for life in a nuclear family.
Whatever the reason, an increase in the number of children living with their
biological parents bodes well for those children, said Kristin Moore,
president of the research firm Child Trends.
``From the point of view of children, this is the most auspicious family
form,'' she said.
Two-parent families raising their biological children tend to be better off
economically, live in better neighborhoods and attend better schools, she
said. ``They have the advantage of stability.''
But the proportion of children living in any sort of two-parent family -
including nuclear families as well as those with stepparents and other
arrangements - continued to fall, from 73 percent in 1991 to 71 percent in
The report found that all sorts of non-traditional families are becoming
more common. Specifically, in fall 1996:
Single parents: About one in four children lived with a single parent, up
slightly from 1991. Nine times out of 10, they were living with their
mother. Still, 1.8 million children lived with their single fathers.
About 3.3 million children were living with a single parent and another
adult. In nearly half these cases, the other adult was the child's other
parent, but the couple was not married.
Blended families: About 16.5 percent of children live in a family recreated
due to remarriage, with stepparents, stepsiblings or half-siblings. That
compares with about 15 percent in 1991.
Adopted children: About 1.5 million children were living with adoptive
parents, but only about half of those were living with two adoptive parents.
In most other cases, stepparents had adopted the biological children of
their new spouses.
Multi-generational: Some 5.9 percent of children lived in a home with at
least three generations, usually because a grandparent was present. That is
up slightly from 5.7 percent in 1991.
Other relatives: 14 percent of children, or 10.3 million, were living in
``extended families,'' where the household includes at least one person
outside the nuclear family. In 1991, it was 12.5 percent.
Children living with just one parent were four times as likely to live in
extended families as others, as single parents look for others to share
resources and provide extra support.
Children in racial minority groups were more than twice as likely than white
children to live in extended families, the report said. In some cases, that
is because new family members immigrated to this country and moved in with
Copyright 2001 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP
news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise
distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press.
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at http://explorer.msn.com
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Mon May 28 2001 - 09:59:46 MDT