Sunday, October 15, 2006

Married Couples a Minority

The New York Times reports today that married couples are now a minority of households. The Times' analysis of the Census Bureau's 2005 American Community Survey (ACS) shows that married couples account for 49.7 percent of households, down from 51.7 percent in 2000. The Census Bureau's other trend-tracking survey still puts married couples in the majority, however. The 2006 Current Population Survey (CPS), taken in March, estimates that married couples accounted for 50.9 percent of households. The difference in the two figures is most likely due to the inherent variation in estimates based on population samples.

It does not matter whether married couples are a slight majority or a bare minority of households. The fact is, living arrangements in the U.S. are very different from what they once were and will change even more as the baby-boom generation ages into the empty-nest years and beyond. Here's how living arrangements rank today, from most to least popular according to both surveys:

1. Married couples without children under age 18 living at home (most are empty-nesters)
ACS 28.0%
CPS 27.1%

2. People living alone (most are women and many are widowed)
ACS 27.1%
CPS 26.6%

3. Married couples with children under age 18 at home
ACS 21.7%
CPS 23.8%

4. Female-headed families (about two-thirds include children)
ACS 12.6%
CPS 12.3%

5. People living with nonrelatives (many are cohabiting couples)
ACS 6.0%
CPS 5.7%

6. Male-headed families (only half include children)
ACS 4.6%
CPS 4.5%

As boomers age and many become widowed, living alone is destined to become the most common lifestyle in the U.S.

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