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July 2002, Vol. 125, No. 7
Expenditures of single parents: how does gender figure in?Geoffrey D. Paulin and Yoon G. Lee
Over the last few decades, the proportion of traditional two-parent families has been declining. In 1980, married couples headed 81 percent of all family households with their own children under 18. By 1999, the figure had fallen to 72 percent.1 The change was due mostly to the growth in the number of single-parent households. For example, in 1980, the married-couple households just described numbered slightly under 25 million. In 1999, the figure was slightly over 25 million, a small change.2 By contrast, households headed by a single parent grew from just under 6.1 million in 1980 to nearly 7.8 million in 1999.3 In total, single-parent families with their own children under 18 accounted for 20 percent of family households in 1980 and 28 percent in 1999.4
One explanation for the increase in single-parent families is the high divorce rate in the Nation today. Between 1980 and 1999, the number of divorced persons doubled, from 9.9 million to 19.7 million.5 Divorce undoubtedly has contributed to the increasing number of single fathers in the United States. In 1980, approximately 616,000 family households with their own children under the age of 18 included a father, but no mother. By 1999, the figure had risen to 1,706,000, an increase of 177 percent.6 Similarly, over the same period, single-mother households grew from 5.4 million to 6.6 million, an increase of 21 percent.7 Put another way, single fathers accounted for 2 percent of family households with their own children under 18 in 1980 and 5 percent in 1999. Single mothers accounted for 18 percent of these households in 1980 and 23 percent in 1999.8
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1 Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2000 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000), p. 58, table 68.
2 Ibid. The precise numbers were 24,961,000 in 1980 and 25,066,000 in 1999, according to table 68.
3 Ibid. The precise numbers were 6,061,000 in 1980 and 7,752,000 in 1999.
5 Ibid., p. 51, table 53.
6 Ibid., p. 58, table 68.
7 Ibid. The precise numbers were 5,445,000 in 1980 and 6,599,000 in 1999.
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