Item from the Smart
Marriages Archive, reproduced in the Divorce Statistics
Two-Parent Families Growing Scarcer - U.S. Study
1.51 p.m. ET (1902 GMT) November 24, 1999
CHICAGO ó The traditional U.S. household comprised of a married couple
with children has become scarcer, a reflection of more women working and
a view that marriage is not always desirable, researchers said on
The most common living arrangement in the United States consists of
unmarried people and no children, which made up one-third of all
households in 1998, double the percentage in 1972.
Meanwhile, the traditional nuclear family ó a married couple with
children ó made up 26 percent of households in 1998, down from 45
percent in 1972, according to a survey conducted by the National Opinion
Research Center at the University of Chicago.
Timothy Smith, director of the survey, attributed the trend to more
women in the work force, driven there by economic necessity and a desire
for a career, and a relaxation of social mores that frowned on
cohabitation and on having children outside marriage.
"Marriage has declined as the central institution under which households
are organized and children are raised,'' Smith said, noting the survey
found that 62 percent of working-class adults reported being married in
the 1994-98 period, down from 80 percent in the 1972-77 period.
"People marry later and divorce and cohabitate more. A growing
proportion of children has been born outside of marriage. Even within
marriage the changes have been profound as more and more women have
entered the labor force and gender roles have become more homogenous
between husbands and wives,'' Smith said.
Both parents have jobs in two-thirds of families, compared to just
one-third in 1972, the survey found. The percentage of households in
which women worked while their husbands stayed at home rose to 4 percent
in the 1990s from 2 percent in the 1970s.
About half of children now live in a household with their original
parents, down from nearly three-quarters of children living in such
households in 1972.
Parents' attitudes toward their children have changed as well, with more
looking for them to take responsibility for themselves. For example,
more parents listed hard work as a desirable trait in their children
The survey comprised interviews with 2,832 randomly selected adults.
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