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Redefining Traditional American Households

Families led by husband-wife now account for fewer than half
  • April 30 2012

Is there still such a thing as the typical American household? If you’re thinking it’s a husband, wife and 2.3 kids, then you’re now missing out on more than half the households in the U.S.

According to the Census Bureau’s recently released brief on households and families, fewer than half of all households (48 percent) were husband-wife households, down from 52 percent in 2000 and 55 percent in 1990. This is the first time that husband-wife families fell below 50 percent since data on families were first tabulated in 1940.

Overall, the number of households in the United States increased 11 percent, from 105.5 million in 2000 to 116.7 million in 2010. While family households increased 8 percent, from 71.8 million in 2000 to 77.5 million in 2010, nonfamily households increased faster, 16 percent, from 33.6 million in 2000 to 39.2 million in 2010. As a proportion of all households, family households declined from 68 percent in 2000 to 66 percent in 2010.

In 2010, husband-wife households numbered 56.5 million in 2010 and made up 73 percent of all family households. Family households maintained by a female householder with no spouse present numbered 15.3 million, more than twice the number maintained by a male householder with no spouse (5.8 million).

Among nonfamily households, one-person households predominated (31.2 million) and were more than three times as common as nonfamily households with two or more people (8.0 million). More women than men lived alone (17.2 million and 13.9 million, respectively).

Opposite-sex unmarried partner households increased by 40 percent to about 6.8 million, almost four times the national average. For same-sex households, the preferred estimates for 2000 and 2010 showed an 80 percent increase. However, same-sex partner households made up less than 1 percent of all households in both 2000 and 2010.

Despite increases in both the number of households and of people in the U.S. since 2000, the average household size decreased over the decade, from 2.59 to 2.58, but average family size stayed the same at 3.14. According to the Census report, this shows a slowing of the downward trends that have existed since the end of the Baby Boom in the 1960s. In 1960, the average household size was 3.29 people per household, and the average family size was 3.65 people per family.


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