The decline in percentage of households with married parents and kids and the good life of suburbia

A recent release of data from the Census Bureau shows a decline in the percentage and absolute number of households consisting of married parents and children:

Photo by Yan Krukov on

The number of U.S. homes with a married couple and kids fell to a record low, according to new government data, as the pandemic further delayed weddings and more adults don’t plan to have kids at all.The share of the U.S.’s 130 million households headed by married parents with children under age 18 fell to 17.8% in 2021 from 18.6% last year, according to the Census Bureau. That’s down from more than 40% in 1970.

By absolute numbers, there are just 23.1 million homes with nuclear families, the fewest since 1959, the data show.

This has direct links to the rise of suburbs in the United States. One of the primary reasons Americans moved to suburbs in large numbers is that they believed – and often continue to believe – that the suburbs are the best settings in which to raise children. Suburban life revolved around children, from their schooling to activities to ensuring that they get ahead in life. Nuclear families, particularly with parents who had married young, became associated with suburbia and a particular era of American history.

Today, suburbia is much more complex. It still includes nuclear families and families wanting their children to succeed. But, it also includes single households, multi-generational households, older adult households where their children have grown and/or are still living occasionally, households where the partners are not married, and young professionals.

All of this means that the typical image of nuclear families in the suburbs may not be as prevalent or powerful as it once was. It still is important, particularly in more residential communities. But, as more different kinds of households also reside in suburbs, what communities values and how decisions are made may change. Are the suburbs of today just for families with children or do they have a responsibility to a broader audience? The future American vision of the suburbs may still include families and children but the depiction may also include other households that also contribute to the good of suburban community.

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