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The Big Answer


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Number of Households

an article by our site

In the last century, between 1980 and 1987, the number of households nationwide increased by 12 percent compared with a 7 percent increase in population. The decline in the average number of persons per household has continued this trend. In 1987, the number of households in the United States was 90,031,000. The count was 91 million in 1988. As reported in the Wall Street Journal Reports, March 9, 1990, there were 94 million households in the United States at that time. While the population has grown less than 1 percent a year since 1980, and will grow even less in the 1990s, the rate of new household formation is under 2 percent a year, the lowest since the Great Depression.

In fact, in June 1991 it was reported that nationally household size had increased for the first time since 1983 due to California's increase from 2.68 people (1980) to 2.79 people per household in 1990. The reasons: the recession, rising costs of setting up a new household causing young adults to remain in their parents' households longer, a higher birth rate in 1989 and 1990, and the huge increase in minority populations in California which traditionally have larger families. All this was last century. The writing, as they say, was on the wall for traditional nuclear family configurations, regardless of anomalies in California. Twenty-first century statistics bear this out.

Traditional nuclear family configurations have been decreasing radically for decades
Traditional nuclear family configurations have been decreasing radically for decades

From last century to this century, the number of households in the United States more than tripled between 1940 and 2010—from 35 million to 117 million. Married couples with children dropped from 42.9% of households in 1940 to 20.2% in 2010. In 2010, Married couples without children were 28.2% of households. Single parents with children changed from 4.3% in 1940 to 9.6% in 2010. Nonfamily households increased from 10% in 1940 to 33.6% in 2010, and 26.7% of households are one person living alone. On average, 2.55 people live in each US household in 2012, down from 3.67 in 1948. Much of that decline is attributable to the growth in 1-person households, which have almost quintupled in number from 1960, and now account for 27% of all households. (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, decennial censuses from 1940 to 2010)

While 27% of all households look like this 1-person household, only 20% look like the previous picture of a nuclear family
While 27% of all households look like this 1-person household, only 20% look like the previous picture of a nuclear family

Not to disparage any illusions, but: "Until the mid-1940s, a much shorter life expectancy meant that parental death often led to the placement of children in extended families, foster care, or orphanages. Thus, the chances of not growing up in a nuclear family were greater in the past than they are now [2014]. People who have the nostalgia bug aren’t aware of several facts. For example, teenage pregnancy rates were higher in the 1950s than they are today. Until the 1970s, few people ever talked of such things as incest or child abuse [so they were likely more prevalent]. . . . Parents spend more time with their children today than they did in the good old days." (Source: The Changing Family) So much for nostalgic Leave it to Beaver delusions!