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US Census: As Baby Boomers Age, Fewer Families Have Children Under 18 at Home

With declining fertility rates and the aging of baby boomers, the percentage of families with their own child living at home decreased to 46 percent in 2008, from 52 percent in 1950, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The findings come from America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2008, a collection of 2008 Current Population Survey (CPS) statistics on family and nonfamily households, characteristics of single-parent families, living arrangements of children and data on married and unmarried couples. The CPS has been conducted annually since 1940.

“Decreases in the percentage of families with their own child under 18 at home reflect the aging of the population and changing fertility patterns,” said Rose Kreider, family demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau. “In 2008, not only were baby boomers old enough that most of their children were 18 and over, but they were having fewer kids than their parents, as well.”

In 1950, 52 percent of family households had their own child under 18. During the years when the baby boomers were young, this percentage increased, reaching 57 percent in the early 1960s. In 2008, however, when the baby boomers were about ages 44 to 62, and likely to be householders themselves, the percentage of families with a child had declined to 46 percent.

Figure 1 [PDF] and table FM-1 [Excel] show the percentage of family households with children under 18 from 1950 through 2008.

Among the factors that contributed to the decrease in the percentage of family households with children under 18:

  • Increases in longevity — The average numbers of years of life remaining at age 30 increased about three years, comparing those age 30 in 1960 with baby boomers who turned 30 in 1980 (Table 11 [PDF], U.S. Life Tables, National Center for Health Statistics). As adults live longer, a larger proportion of married couple households will be those who are older and either childless, or whose adult children live elsewhere. In 1968, 29 percent of married men were age 55 and over, as were 22 percent of married women. In 2008, 38 percent of married men were 55 and over, as were 33 percent of married women.
  • Increases in childlessness — The percentage of women age 40 to 44 who were childless increased from 10 percent in 1976 to 20 percent in 2006. (Supplemental Table 1 [Excel], U.S. Census Bureau).

Other highlights from America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2008 include:

  • The median age for men at first marriage was 27.4 years. For women, the median age at first marriage was 25.6.
  • The percentage of family households with children under 18 in 2008 that had three or more of their own children present was 21 percent in both 1998 and 2008.
  • The percentage of adults ages 45 to 49 who were married varied by race and ethnicity. For example, among women 45 to 49, 79 percent of Asians, 69 percent of white non-Hispanics, 62 percent of Hispanics and 43 percent of blacks were married.
  • In 2008, 66.9 million opposite-sex couples lived together — 60.1 million were married, and 6.8 million were not.
  • The United States had an estimated 5.5 million “stay-at-home” parents: 5.3 million mothers and 140,000 fathers.
  • The percentage of children living with two parents varied by race and origin. Eighty-five percent of Asian children lived with two parents, as did 78 percent of white non-Hispanic children, 70 percent of Hispanic children and 38 percent of black children.
  • About 9 percent of all children (6.6 million) lived in a household that included a grandparent. Twenty-three percent of children living with a grandparent had no parent present.
  • In 2008, 6 percent of white non-Hispanic children lived in a household with a grandparent present, compared with 10 percent of Hispanic children, and 14 percent of both Asian and black children.
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