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The Big Answer

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Household/Family Groupings

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Child rearing is taking up a smaller part of adult life, so traditional families continue to decline as a share of the population. With the increase of single-parent families, cohabitation, and childlessness, the range of household types continues to broaden and families with children do not dominate any longer. (Source: Riche, Martha Farnsworth, "The Consumers of the '90s, Insights & Opportunities," reprinted from The Numbers News, January 1990, American Demographics Conference News, February 1990, p. 4.)

Of the country's 94 million households in 1990, 71 percent were families (down from 74 percent in 1980), but the definition of family is "two or more related people living together," which can mean two sisters, an aunt and niece, or other groupings that do not fit the "traditional" definition of family. The traditional family (married couples with children at home under age 18), the only household type to shrink in number between 1980 and 1990, represented only 26 percent of households in 1990, down from 31 percent in 1980. (Source: "Redefining the Family," Wall Street Journal Reports, March 9, 1990, p. R13.) Married couples represented just 48 percent of American households in 2010—slightly less than in 2000, but way below the 78 percent of households occupied by married couples in 1950 when Ozzie and Harriet models prevailed. This model became synonymous with the 1950s ideal American family life. (Ozzie and who? Exactly…)

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet—was this portrayal ever real?
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet—was this portrayal ever real?

What is more, in 2010 just 20% of households were traditional families — married couples with children — down from 25% in 2000, and way down from 43 percent in 1950. (Source: “Married Couples Are No Longer a Majority, Census Finds”, Sabrina Tavernise, NY Times, 2011.) Of course, many of us still consider a "traditional" family to be one in which only the father works—the mother nurtures, cooks, cleans, shops, and phone-gossips. By this definition the percent sinks from 20 to 7. (Source: Traditional Families Account for Only 7 Percent of U.S. Households)

Note: In March of 1989 the number of nonfamily households (people living alone or with unrelated people) outnumbered married-couple-with-children households. Although some believe that Americans are returning to traditional lifestyles, the numbers say it isn't so. As stated, in 2010 just 20% of households were traditional families—this type of family structure has been losing steam for 60 years.

In 2010, just 20% of households were traditional married-couple-with-children families
In 2010, just 20% of households were traditional married-couple-with-children families

More young people are leaving home later, due to no jobs being available and marrying later and trying to pay back college loans, and more older people are living with their families, for a lot of reasons. The multi-generational family household in the U.S. accounted for only 12.1% of family households in 1980, but 16.1% in 2010. This is due to more immigrants arriving that have traditionally used this lifestyle, as well as being because of job losses and home foreclosures, among other things. (Source: Decennial Census data from 1900 to 2000 and the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Surveys in 2006, 2007 and 2008.)

Modern immigrants
Modern immigrants