Monday, April 25, 2011

Why the Nuclear Meltdown?

As noted in the post below, only 22 percent of households in the United States today are headed by married couples with children under age 18. This figure is down from a high of 45 percent in 1957--the peak year of the baby boom. Nuclear families now rank third in importance among household types, behind married couples without children at home (27 percent of households, most of them empty nesters) and people who live alone (also 27 percent).

A whole lot of demographic change has eroded the nuclear family. Once the stalwart of the American marketplace, nuclear families are now outnumbered and outspent by married couples without children at home. This is what happened to them:  

  • Aging population As the large baby-boom generation aged into its fifties and sixties, empty nesters became more numerous than nuclear families.
  • Higher education As more young adults went to college, they postponed marriage. The average age at first marriage has never been higher. 
  • Smaller families As women have fewer children, they are spending fewer years raising them.
  • Out-of-wedlock childbearing More than 40 percent of babies are born out-of-wedlock and--by definition--out of a nuclear family. 
  • Divorce Once rare, divorce is now commonplace, breaking nuclear families into single-parent and single-person households.

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