Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 1997. PF 2.1 Family structure: number of parents in household

04/01/1997

Family structure is correlated with many factors that contribute to child well-being such as material wealth. It is also associated with many child outcomes. For example, children from disrupted or never-married families are somewhat more likely to use alcohol and drugs, to become teen parents, and to achieve lower earnings than are children from intact families, and they are less likely to attain a high school diploma. These associations are evident even after controlling for family socioeconomic status, race, and other background factors.1 Nevertheless, the great majority of children brought up in single-parent families do well. In particular, differences in well-being between children from divorced and intact families tend, on average, to be moderate to small.2

Between 1960 and 1996, the proportion of children in two-parent families (about three-quarters of whom were families with both biological parents present)3 decreased from 88 percent to 68 percent (see Figure PF 2.1)

Differences by Race and Ethnicity. The decrease in the proportion of children living in two-parent families is evident for both black and white children, though the descent is significantly steeper for black children. Between 1960 and 1996, the proportion of black children living in two-parent families fell by 34 percentage points, from 67 percent to 33 percent. By contrast, the drop for white children was only 16 percentage points, from 91 percent to 75 percent. For Hispanic children, the trend is also towards a smaller proportion of children in two-parent families, decreasing from 75 percent to 62 percent between 1980 (the first year for which Hispanic estimates are available) and 1996.

Table PF 2.1.B presents 1980 and 1990 census data for Asian and Native American families in addition to data on white, black, and Hispanic families. The percent of children living in two-parent families dropped for all five groups during that period. In 1990, Asian children were the most likely to live in a two-parent household at 84 percent followed closely by whites at 82 percent, then Hispanics (71 percent), Native Americans (64 percent) and blacks (47 percent).
 

Figure PF 2.1  
Percentage of U.S. Children Under Age 18 Living With Two Parents, by Race/Ethnicity: 19601996 

FIGPF2_1.GIF

Source: 1960 data U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1960 Census of Population, PC (2) - 4B, Persons by Family Characteristics, Tables 1 and 19. 1970 Hispanic data U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1970 Census of the Population, PC (2) - 1 C, Persons of Spanish Origin, Table 4. Data from 1970 - 1995 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P20-491, Marital Status and Living Arrangements: March 1995, and earlier reports. 1996 data U.S. Bureau of Census Unpublished tables.

 

Table PF 2.1.A  
Living Arrangements of Children Under 18 Years Old by Race/Ethnicity: Selected Years, 19601996 (in percents)

                           
   
1960
1970a
1975
1980a
1985
1990
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Totals:
 
Two Parents
88
85
80
77
74
73
72
71
71
69
69
68
 
Mother Only
8
11
16
18
21
22
22
23
23
23
23
24
 
Father Only
1
1
2
2
3
3
3
3
3
3
4
4
 
No Parent
3
3
3
4
3
3
3
3
3
4
4
4
 
 
                       
White
 
Two Parents
91
90
85
83
80
79
78
77
77
76
76
75
 
Mother Only
6
8
11
14
16
16
17
18
17
18
18
18
 
Father Only
1
1
2
2
2
3
3
3
3
3
3
4
 
No Parent
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
3
3
3
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Black
 
Two Parents
67
58
49
42
40
38
36
36
36
33
33
33
 
Mother Only
20
30
41
44
51
51
54
54
54
53
52
53
 
Father Only
2
2
2
2
3
4
4
3
3
4
4
4
 
No Parent
11
10
8
12
7
8
6
7
7
10
11
9
 
 
                       
Hispanicb
 
Two Parents
--
--
--
75
68
67
66
65
65
63
63
62
 
Mother Only
--
--
--
20
27
27
27
28
28
28
28
29
 
Father Only
--
--
--
2
2
3
3
4
4
4
4
4
 
No Parent
--
--
--
3
3
3
4
3
4
5
4
5
 
 
                       
 
                         
Note: aRevised estimate based on population from the decennial census for that year. 
bHispanics may be of any race. 

Source: 1960 data U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1960 Census of Population, PC (2) - 4B, "Persons by Family Characteristics," Tables 1 and 19. 1970 Hispanic data U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1970 Census of the Population, PC (2) - 1 C, "Persons of Spanish Origin," Table 4. Data from 1970 - 1995 U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P20-491, "Marital Status and Living Arrangements: March 1995," and earlier reports. 1996 data U.S. Bureau of Census unpublished tables.

 

Table PF 2.1.B 
Percentage Distribution of U.S. Families with Own Children Under Age 18, by Family Type and Race/Ethnicity: 1980 and 1990

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1980
1990
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Total
 
 
 
 
 
 
Married couple
81.5
77.1
 
 
 
Female head
16.1
17.7
 
 
 
Male head
2.4
4.1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
White
 
 
 
 
 
 
Married couple
85.7
82.2
 
 
 
Female head
12.1
14
 
 
 
Male head
2.2
3.7
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Black
 
 
 
 
 
 
Married couple
54.3
46.9
 
 
 
Female head
41.7
47.6
 
 
 
Male head
4
5.5
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Hispanic
 
 
 
 
 
 
Married couple
76.6
71.4
 
 
 
Female head
20.4
22.1
 
 
 
Male head
3.1
6.5
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Asian American
 
 
 
 
 
 
Married couple
88.5
84.3
 
 
 
Female head
9.4
9.8
 
 
 
Male head
2.1
2.9
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Native American
 
 
 
 
 
 
Married couple
71.5
63.6
 
 
 
Female head
24.2
28.7
 
 
 
Male head
4.3
7.8
 
           

Source: "The Challenge of Change: What the 1990 Census Tells Us About Children," prepared by the Population Reference Bureau for the Center for the Study of Social Policy, Table 14, with data from the Bureau of the Census, 1980 Census of Population, "General Social and Economic Characteristics," PC80-1-C1, United States Summary, tables 100,121, and 131; and Census of Population and Housing 1990, Summary Tape File 3, tables P-19, P-20, and P-21.

 

1 Amato, P.R. 1993. Childrens Adjustment to Divorce: Theories, Hypotheses, and Empirical Support. Journal of Marriage and the Family. 55: 23-58.

2 Zill, N., Morrison, D., and Coiro, M. 1993. Long-term Effects of Parental Divorce on Parent-Child Relationships, Adjustment and Achievement in Early Adulthood. Journal of Family Psychology. 7(1): 91-103.

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