The purpose of this study is to present a demographic analysis of census data on American families at the midcentury. I have chosen the expression American families to convey the idea that the study is nationwide in scope and that families vary in their composition and other characteristics. Most of' the information was obtained from the 1950 Census of Population or from the annual sample surveys of families conducted by the Bureau of' the Census since 1944. The analysis is largely descriptive rather than theoretical. My hope is that others will find in the descriptive material a source for the testing of theoretical hypotheses. In some places I have considered it necessary to introduce technical concepts and statistical measures which may be unfamiliar to the reader. In the summary chapter, however, I have omitted as many as possible of the technical qualifications in order to highlight the main findings.
Much of the discussion in this monograph centers on adults in the age range between, but not including, adolescence and old age. This is the period of life when persons are most likely to marry, establish a home, rear children, and launch their sons and daughters on the same cycle of family life. Other monographs in this series, to appear later, will present analyses of census data on children and youth and on the aging population. Some overlap in content among the three monographs is inevitable and even desirable. Several of the other monographs in the series include discussions of marriage, household formation, and related subjects. Among these are the monographs on fertility, housing, urban and rural communities, the labor force, income, and the growth of the population.
During the 17 years since I joined the staff of the Bureau of the Census as a family analyst, I have been greatly impressed by the rapid growth in the number of persons who have come to depend upon our family statistics to answer some of their pressing questions. These persons represent a wide variety of interests. The greatest increase has evidently been among commercial research workers who are concerned with trends' in household formation as an indication of the potential future demand for housing, home appliances, utilities, magazines, automobiles, and other types of goods and services which are ordinarily purchased or used on a household basis. Increasing numbers of teachers, counselors, government research workers, and students have been making use of our data on family living arrangements, the cycle of' family growth, and patterns of' marriage and . . .