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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2013

Family Structure and Children's Living Arrangements

The composition of families is dynamic and has implications for critical parental and economic resources. A long-term shift in family composition has decreased the share of children living with two married parents, while single-parent households have become more common for children.

Indicator Fam1.A: Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 1980–2012
Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 1980–2012

NOTE: Data for 2012 exclude about 253,000 household residents under age 18 who were listed as family reference persons or spouses. Prior to 2007, a second parent could only be identified if they were married to the first parent on the survey record. Prior to 2007 children with two unmarried parents in the household may be identified as "mother only" or "father only." Starting in 2007, a second parent identifier permits identification of two coresident parents, even if the parents are not married to each other.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements.

  • Sixty-four percent of children ages 0–17 lived with two married parents in 2012, down from 77 percent in 1980.
  • In 2012, 24 percent of children lived with only their mothers, 4 percent lived with only their fathers, and 4 percent lived with neither of their parents.1
  • Seventy-four percent of White, non-Hispanic, 59 percent of Hispanic, and 33 percent of Black children lived with two married parents in 2012.2
  • The proportion of Hispanic children living with two married parents decreased from 75 percent in 1980 to 59 percent in 2012.
  • Due to improved measurement, it is now possible to identify children living with two parents who are not married to each other. Four percent of all children lived with two unmarried parents in 2012.

For a detailed measure of living arrangements of children, see FAM1.B.

Although most children spend the majority of their childhood living with two parents, some children have other living arrangements. Information about the presence of parents and other adults in the household, such as unmarried partners, grandparents, and other relatives, is important for understanding children's social, economic, and developmental well-being.

Indicator Fam1.B: Percentage of children ages 0–17 living in various family arrangements, 2012
Percentage of children ages 0–17 living in various family arrangements, 2012

a Includes children living with two stepparents.

NOTE: Data exclude the nearly 253,000 household residents under age 18 who were listed as family reference persons or spouses.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements.

  • Among children living with two parents, 92 percent lived with both of their biological or adoptive parents, and 8 percent lived with a biological or adoptive parent and a stepparent. About 70 percent of children in stepparent families lived with their biological mother and stepfather.3
  • Six percent of children who lived with two biological or adoptive parents had parents who were not married.
  • The majority of children living with one parent lived with their single mother. About 14 percent of children living with one parent lived with their single father.
  • Some single parents had cohabiting partners. Twenty-six percent of children living with single fathers and 11 percent of children living with single mothers also lived with their parent's cohabiting partner. Out of all children ages 0–17, about 5.6 million (8 percent) lived with a parent or parents who were cohabiting.
  • Among the 2.6 million children (4 percent of all children) not living with either parent in 2012, about 55 percent (1.5 million) lived with grandparents, 22 percent lived with other relatives only, and 22 percent lived with nonrelatives. Of children in nonrelatives' homes, 33 percent (193,000) lived with foster parents.
  • Older children were less likely to live with two parents: 65 percent of children ages 15–17 lived with two parents, compared with 67 percent of children ages 6–14, and 72 percent of those ages 0–5. Among children living with two parents, older children were more likely to live with a stepparent and less likely to live with cohabiting parents.3

table icon FAM1.A HTML TableFAM1.B HTML Table

1 The majority of children who live with neither of their parents are living with grandparents or other relatives. Others who live with neither parent live with foster parents or other nonrelatives.

2 Federal surveys now give respondents the option of reporting more than one race. Therefore, two basic ways of defining a race group are possible. A group such as Black may be defined as those who reported Black and no other race (the race-alone or single-race concept) or as those who reported Black regardless of whether they also reported another race (the race-alone or- in-combination concept). This indicator shows data using the first approach (race-alone). Use of the single-race population does not imply that it is the preferred method of presenting or analyzing data. The U.S. Census Bureau uses a variety of approaches. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

3 For more information, refer to America's Families and Living Arrangements 2012 detailed tables, available at http://www.census.gov/hhes/families/data/cps2012.html.