Thursday, October 11, 2018

Three Generations of Married-Couple Households

It is difficult to grasp just how much living arrangements have changed in the United States unless you mine the Census Bureau's archives to uncover the nitty gritty of the way we used to live. The most dramatic change over the decades is the decline in the share of households headed by married couples. In three generations, the share of all households headed by married couples fell 26 percentage points—from 74 to just 48 percent. Among the youngest adults, the drop is a stunning 68 percentage points! Here is the married-couple share of households by age of householder today (2018), one generation ago (1990), and two generations ago (1960)...

Percent of households headed by married couples
     2018     1990     1960
Total households     48.0%     55.3%     74.2%
Under age 25     14.3     31.9     82.3
Aged 25 to 34     41.5     54.1     86.9
Aged 35 to 44     56.9     62.2     84.4
Aged 45 to 54     55.0     63.8     76.5
Aged 55 to 64     52.9     63.1     67.9
Aged 65 or older     44.2     44.0     51.1

What replaced all those married couples? Single-parent families, single-person households, and people living together outside of marriage. These once uncommon living arrangements were the consequence of rising educational attainment and women's growing economic independence. The steep decline in married couples reveals much of the social change of the past half century.

Source: Demo Memo analysis of the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey

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