- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2001

America's 105 million households are increasingly filled with people who live alone or with nonrelatives such as roommates or romantic partners, the Census Bureau says in a report released today.

In 2000, nearly 15 percent of households were made up of single women and another 10.7 percent were made up of single men.

This is an increase from 1970, when 11.5 percent of households were of women living alone and 5.6 percent of households were of men living alone. While many of today's single householders are senior citizens, significant numbers are divorced or never married, said Jason Fields, a researcher at the Census Bureau who wrote the report, "America's Families and Living Arrangements."

Other kinds of "non-family" households, such as roommates or cohabiting couples, grew from 1.7 percent in 1970 to 5.7 percent in 2000, according to the report.

This growth in non-family homes has led to a steady decline in family households, which are made up of people who are related by blood, marriage or adoption.

In 1970, more than 81 percent of the 63 million U.S. households were family homes. Virtually half those homes were traditional families of two married parents and their children.

By 2000, not quite 69 percent of homes were family homes, and of these, the largest portion 28.7 percent were of married couples without children. Traditional family households dropped to 24.1 percent.

The decisions of millions of young men and women to delay marriage and childbearing are major factors in these household shifts, said Mr. Fields.

In 1970, for instance, 64 percent of women and 45 percent of men were married by the time they reached 24, census data says.

By 2000, barely 27 percent of women and 16 percent of men were married by age 24.

The median age for first marriage has risen by roughly four years, to 25.1 years for women and 26.8 years for men in 2000, so many of these young people eventually marry, said Mr. Fields.

"But we're seeing continued delays in childbearing," he said. "So even as these young couples marry, they're not having children for a while they're waiting for careers or to finish education."

The number of traditional families may rise as these young couples marry and have children, but that won't be seen for another five to 10 years, added Mr. Fields.

The data showed that even those in their 30s were less likely to marry than before: In 1970, 6 percent of women and 9 percent of men ages 30 to 34 had never married. By 2000, nearly 22 percent of women and 30 percent of men in that age group hadn't married.

Other highlights of the report included:

• Between 1970 and 2000, the number of single mothers rose from 3 million to 10 million, and the number of single fathers rose from 393,000 to 2 million.

• In 2000, 3.8 million men and women were in unmarried-partner or cohabiting households, representing 3.6 percent of all households.

• Forty-one percent of cohabiting households had children present. This is almost the same rate as married-couple households, which had children present in 46 percent of homes.

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