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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2017

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, whereas single-parent households have become more common for children.

Indicator FAM1.A: Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 1980–2016
Indicator FAM1A: Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 1980–2016

NOTE: Data for 2016 exclude about 291,000 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 he or she 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 Supplement.

  • Sixty-five percent of children 0–17 lived with two married parents in 2016, down from 77 percent in 1980.
  • In 2016, 23 percent of children lived with only their mothers, 4 percent lived with only their fathers, and 4 percent lived with neither of their parents. The majority of children who lived with neither of their parents were living with grandparents or other relatives.
  • Seventy-four percent of White-alone, non-Hispanic children lived with two married parents in 2016, compared with 60 percent of Hispanic and 34 percent of Black-alone children.1
  • 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 2016.2

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. This Indicator provides more detail about children's living arrangements and uses information about coresident parents to show detailed parental relationships—biological, step, or adoptive.

Indicator FAM1.B: Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 2016
Indicator FAM1.B: Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 2016

a Children living with two stepparents are included here, in either of the categories where one parent is biological/adoptive and one is a stepparent.

NOTE: Data for 2016 exclude about 291,000 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 Supplement.

  • In 2016, 69 percent of children ages 0–17 lived with two parents (65 percent with two married parents and 4 percent with two biological or adoptive cohabiting parents), 23 percent lived with only their mothers, 4 percent lived with only their fathers, and 4 percent lived with no parent.
  • Among children living with two parents, 92 percent lived with both of their biological or adoptive parents, and 8 percent lived with a stepparent. Among children in stepparent families in 2014, about 76 percent lived with their biological mother and a stepfather.3
  • About 5 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. Some single parents had cohabiting partners. Twenty-eight 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, 5.7 million (8 percent) lived with a parent or parents who were cohabiting.
  • Among the 2.8 million children (4 percent of all children) not living with a parent in 2016, 55 percent (1.6 million) lived with grandparents, 24 percent lived with other relatives only, and 21 percent lived with nonrelatives.4 Of children in nonrelatives' homes, 37 percent (222,000) lived with foster parents.
  • Older children were less likely to live with two parents: 64 percent of children ages 15–17 lived with two parents, compared with 68 percent of children ages 6–14 and 72 percent of those ages 0–5. Among children living with two parents in 2014, older children were more likely than younger children to live with a stepparent and less likely than younger children to live with cohabiting parents.3

table icon FAM1A HTML Table | FAM1B HTML Table

1 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.

2 The number of children living with two unmarried parents is calculated by subtracting the number who live with two married parents from the total number who live with two parents.

3 For more information, refer to America's Families and Living Arrangements 2014 detailed tables, available at https://www.census.gov/topics/families/families-and-households.html.

4 The percentage of children living with other relatives only and those living with nonrelatives are not statistically different from each other.