Magazine article Economic Trends

Household Demographics

Magazine article Economic Trends

Household Demographics

Article excerpt

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Household spending, household employment, and median household income are often cited in the news as indicators of the economy's health. But what exactly is a household?

Households fall into two major categories, family and nonfamily. A family household has at least two members related by blood, marriage, or adoption, one of whom is the householder. In 1970, 81% of all U.S. households were family households, but this figure had fallen to 69% by 2000. The composition of family households has changed as well: In 1970, the largest segment of family households was made up of married couples with their own children. In 2000, married couples without their own children formed the largest segment.

Nonfamily households, on the other hand, typically include people living alone, boarders, roommates, and unmarried couples. (The 2000 census introduced the "unmarried partner" category to reflect the difference between roommates and couples.) Women living alone have always formed the largest segment of the growing nonfamily portion of households, but this share was larger in 2000 than in 1970. The share of men living alone has increased steadily in the last four censuses.

The size of households has also changed over those four decades. Between the 1970 and the 1980 census, the decrease in the share of households with five or more persons (8.1 percentage points) exactly equaled the increase in the share of one- and two-person households. Since the 1980 census, one- and two-person households have increased steadily, while households with three or more persons have decreased correspondingly. …

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