- A majority of American children live with married parents and a large minority of children are being raised in a diverse range of family structures, chief among them, single motherhood. Tweet This
- Single-parent families are the second most common type of family living arrangement for American children. In 2018, close to a quarter (24%) of children lived with only one parent. Tweet This
Children in America today are growing up in much more diverse family settings than they did a few decades ago. In 1970, more than 80% of American children lived in a home with married parents. Today, the share is about 64%.
This means a large minority of children live in other family arrangements. Some lived with only their mom or dad, but not both parents. Some lived with parents who live together but are not married. And a small share lived in homes with two moms or two dads.
At the Institute for Family Studies, we monitor the well-being of children and families and track the living arrangements of children in our nation. Using the most recent American Community Survey, this family fact sheet provides an updated and comprehensive look at the diverse family arrangements for America’s children.
Here are some key facts from our analysis of the 2018 American Community Survey.
First, a majority of children in the U.S. still live with two, married opposite-sex parents. In 2018, 64% of children under age 18 lived in a home with married opposite-sex parents, according to our analysis of American community survey. Most of these children lived with two parents in their first marriage (76%) while the rest lived with parents who were in a remarriage (these children could be born in the new marriage or from an earlier marriage). Another 7% of children lived with cohabiting opposite-sex parents. In these cohabiting families, children either lived with their unmarried mom and dad or with a single parent and an opposite-sex partner of the parent.
Single-parent families are the second most common type of family living arrangement for American children. In 2018, close to a quarter (24%) of children lived with only one parent. A vast majority of these children lived with their mother, but a growing share of children lived with their dad. Children in single-parent families have parents who have never been married, or who are divorced or separated. More than half of children in single-mom families (54%) lived with a never-married parent in 2018, compared with 40% of children in single-dad families. A small share of children (4%) lived in a home without either parent, and these children were either being raised by grandparents, other relatives, or in foster-care families.
Finally, despite the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, the number of children being raised by married same-sex parents is quite small. In 2018, an estimated 233,000 children (or 0.3% of all children) lived in a home with two married same-sex parents, while another 86,000 children (0.1% of all children) lived with cohabiting same-sex parents. In total, 319,000 children, or 0.4% of the overall population of children in the U.S., lived with same-sex parents in 2018.
This family fact sheet on family diversity in America conveys two important takeaways: first, a majority of American children continue to be raised by married parents and, second, a large minority of children are being raised in a diverse range of family structures, chief among them, single motherhood.
Wendy Wang is the director of research for the Institute for Family Studies.