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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021

Family Structure and Children's Living Arrangements

The composition of families is dynamic and has implications for critical parental and economic resources. A slight shift in family composition since 2010 has increased the share of children living with two married parents, whereas living in single-father households has become more common for children, and living in single-mother households has become less common for children.

Indicator FAM1.A: Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 2010–2020
Indicator FAM1A: Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 2010–2020

NOTE: Data for 2020 exclude about 210,000 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.

  • Sixty-seven percent of children ages 0–17 lived with two married parents in 2020, up from 66% in 2010.
  • In 2020, 21% of children lived with their mothers only, 5% 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-six percent of White-alone, non-Hispanic children lived with two married parents in 2020 compared with 62% of Hispanic and 38% of Black- alone, non-Hispanic 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 2020.4

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, 2020
Indicator FAM1B: Percentage of children ages 0–17 by presence of parents in household, 2020

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

NOTE: Data for 2020 exclude about 210,000 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 2020, about 70% of children ages 0–17 lived with two parents (67% with two married parents and 4% with two unmarried cohabiting parents), 21% lived with their mothers only, 5% lived with their fathers only, and 4% lived with no parent.5
  • Among children living with two parents, 91% lived with both of their biological or adoptive parents, and 9% 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. Of all children ages 0–17, 5.1 million (7%) lived with a parent or parents who were cohabiting.
  • Older children were less likely to live with two parents: 67% of children ages 15–17 lived with two parents compared with 69% of children ages 6–14 and 75% of those ages 0–5.

table icon FAM1A HTML Table | FAM1B HTML Table

2 The 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, the percentage of children living with two unmarried parents is not statistically different from the percentage of children living with no parents. The percentage of children living with a single father is statistically different from the percentage of children living with no parents, which is different from previous years.

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.