Almost three-quarters of the nation’s children lived with two parents in 2001, a figure that is not much different from a decade ago, census data show.
“A lot of the really big changes [in family trends] happened a couple of decades ago,” said Rose M. Kreider, co-author of the Census Bureau report on the living arrangements of children 17 and younger.
But since 1990, things have been “pretty stable,” she said.
The new data, compiled from the bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation and released yesterday, shows that 71 percent of the nation’s 72.5 million children lived with two parents in 2001.
Two-parent families included biological parents who are married, stepfamilies, adoptive parents and unmarried couples.
Another 22 percent of children lived with their mothers only. Three percent lived with their fathers only and 4 percent lived in homes with no parent present. Most of the children in the latter group lived with their grandparents, Ms. Kreider noted.
In many ways, the 2001 data are virtually unchanged from 1990 and 1996, which suggests that “the changes in children’s living arrangements have leveled off,” Ms. Kreider wrote.
However, historical census data capture the great upheaval that American families underwent in the 1970s and 1980s.
For instance, in the 90 years between 1880 and 1970, roughly 85 percent of children were raised in two-parent homes.
Between 1970 and 1990, sweeping social changes — such as women entering the work force, no-fault divorce, and an increase in premarital sex, cohabitation and unwed childbearing — led to a doubling of single-parent homes and subsequent decline of the traditional nuclear family.
Now, the only figure that looks like it did 100 years ago is the small number (3 percent) of children who live only with their fathers, the census report said.
Other highlights of the report, “Living Arrangements of Children: 2000”:
About 2.1 million children lived with two parents who were not married to each other.
About 11 million children lived in “blended” stepfamilies.
About 1.4 million children were adopted, which is not statistically different from the 1996 estimate of 1.5 million adopted children.
Of 18.5 million children who lived with a single parent, 16.3 million lived with their mothers and 2.2 million lived with their fathers.
In the 12 months before the census survey was taken, 3.1 million children saw their mother or father marry; in more than one-quarter of these marriages, the biological parents married each other.
During the same 12-month period, 1.5 million children saw their parents divorce.