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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2019

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 since 1980 has decreased the share of children living with two married parents, whereas living in single-parent households has become more common for children.

Indicator FAM1.A: Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 1980–2018
Indicator FAM1A: Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 1980–2018

NOTE: Data for 2018 exclude about 204,000 household residents under age 18 who were listed as family reference persons or spouses. Prior to 2007, a second parent could be identified only if he or she was 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 ages 0–17 lived with two married parents in 2018, down from 77% in 1980.
  • In 2018, 22% of children lived with their mothers only, 4% lived with their fathers only, and 4% lived with neither of their parents.2 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 2018, compared with 61% of Hispanic and 36% of Black-alone children.3
  • Because of 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 cohabiting parents in 2018.4

While the majority of children live with two parents, many children have other living arrangements. Information about detailed parental relationships and the presence of 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 by presence of parents in household, 2018
Indicator FAM1.B: Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 2018

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 2018 exclude about 204,000 household residents under age 18 who were listed as family reference persons or spouses. Prior to 2007, a second parent could be identified only if he or she was 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.

  • In 2018, 69% of children ages 0–17 lived with two parents (65% with two married parents and 4% with two cohabiting parents), 22% lived with their mothers only, 4% lived with their fathers only, and 4% lived with no parent.5
  • Among children living with two parents, 92% lived with both of their biological or adoptive parents, and 8% lived with a stepparent.6
  • About 5% 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-nine percent of children living with single fathers and 11% of children living with single mothers also lived with their parent's cohabiting partner. Of all children ages 0–17, 5.8 million (8%) lived with a parent or parents who were cohabiting.
  • Among the 3.1 million children (4% of all children) not living with a parent in 2018, 54% (1.7 million) lived with grandparents, 21% lived with other relatives only, and 25% lived with nonrelatives. Of children in nonrelatives' homes, 38% (294,000) lived with foster parents.
  • Older children were less likely to live with two parents: 65% of children ages 15–17 lived with two parents, compared with 68% of children ages 6–14 and 73% of those ages 0–5.

table icon FAM1A HTML Table | FAM1B HTML Table

2The percentage of children living with their fathers only and the percentage of children living with neither of their parents are not statistically different from each other.

3 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 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.

4 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.

5 Although the percentage of children living with two unmarried parents is statistically different from the percentage of children living with a single father, neither percentage is statistically different from the percentage of children living with no parents.

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