Daily Life in the United States, 1960-1990: Decades of Discord

By Myron A. Marty | Go to book overview

26
Family Variations

The average size of households declined to 2.63 persons in 1990, down from 3.3 in 1960 and the smallest ever. Single-person households increased to one-fourth of the total. Families--that is, households consisting of at least two persons--averaged 3.17 persons, down from 3.67 in 1960. The ratio of households consisting of married couples with children under age 18 declined from 31 percent of the total in 1980 to 26 percent in 1990. Households made up of married couples without children remained constant at around 30 percent, while those with men or women living alone increased to nearly one-fourth of all households.

Households and Families

By the 1980s the strains on families were so great that there were reasons to wonder whether more radical changes in their structures and functions were likely to occur. What did it mean that the percentages of men and women who remained unmarried almost doubled between 1970 and 1990? For men, the increase in "never-marrieds" climbed from under 19 percent in 1970 to almost 26 percent in 1990; for women, from under 14 percent to almost 19 percent. Whether the never-marrieds of both sexes in all age groups remained single by choice or necessity, temporarily or permanently, their presence in the population was notable.

Marriage and Divorce

Divorce rates climbed to much higher levels than they had been in the 1950s. After reaching a peak of 5.3 per 1,000 people in 1981, the rate decreased slightly during the decade, but few expected it to return to the levels of the 1950s. Perhaps trends toward later marriage and cohabitation outside of marriage contributed to declining divorce rates.

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