Monday, May 16, 2011

Trends: Single-Parent Households with Children

Yesterday I mentioned, in passing, the growth of single-parent households. Today I thought I’d follow that up with a deep data series, thus back 50 years. I have these data from the Statistical Abstract (link, look at Table 59) but ultimately derived from the Census Bureau’s Current Population survey. To focus sharply on the crucial issues, the upbringing of children, I’ve selected for graphing data on households with children under 18 years of age in each category shown. Here is the graphic:

The faint bars show married couple households; the curves show female- and male-headed single-parent households—and the sum of these in red. In 1960 single-parent households represented 9.1 percent of all households with children—in my view already high. In 2009 that percentage stood at 29.5 percent!

The growth rates in this period? Well, all single-parent households with children grew an annual rate of 3.1 percent; female-headed households in this category grew at 2.9 percent a year, male-headed households had the quite astonishing 4.6 percent annual growth rate.

Well, what about married-couple households. These are (thank the Lord) still the most numerous, but they had virtually no growth at all, increasing at the rate of a mere 0.15 percent a year. This means that virtually all growth in households with children took place in the marginal categories—and the largest proportion of these in 2009 (80%) were headed by females—whose earning powers are well under those of men.

Disconnects—everywhere. Most people don’t see data like these so baldly displayed—or would know how to extract them out of the deep bowels of our statistics archives—but the feeling that something is wrong is certainly present and supported by personal observation and experience. It feeds the boiling rage that heats our current politics. Because all these endless disconnects are driving us mad! The local papers are full of sports triumphs or tragedies—and spiced with civic corruption, the closing schools, and teacher-layoffs. Nationally they drip with billions we spend in foreign wars—and at whim expend on saving revolutionaries in Libya. At home vast numbers of children live in poverty while we orate about family values. It’s time to clear all this debris, return to nation building here at home, and start once more looking for the unity that once made the United States a beacon.

1 comment:

  1. The fundamental issue is that many of the old constraints have been (mostly) removed:

    Women can work in most fields at near wage parity with men. Some exceptions still apply
    Women can get credit/own property without a husband.
    Women can go to school. They out number men in universities.
    Social safety nets instead of community/church (and the guilt that came with that)
    The Divorce stigma is gone.

    Now, there is no advocacy that any of that be reversed. Those constraints did the job of ensuring more 2 parent households existed. Keeping women out of the workforce tended to mean higher wages for the "breadwinner".
    They were very effective, but constraining. Limiting the life of half the adult population.

    What has happened is an obvious result of those restraints being removed... with the very desirable effect of liberating women.

    As yet, we have not found a replacement set of values to ensure the long term health of families and thus protect children.

    We could continue down the road of cradle to grave entitlements such as Europe. We could heavily subsidize births with the same result: falling birthrates.

    Better would to be to build a social environment that supported the two parent family, and let people make that choice on their own.