Percentage of Children living in Owner-Occupied Homes Still Down From Prerecession Levels

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By Emily Schondelmyer, demographer

The Census Bureau released its annual “Families and Living Arrangements” table package today, finding that about 20 percent of the nation’s children are receiving food stamps. The economic well-being of households with children declined during the recession, evidenced by a 7 percentage point drop in homeownership in 2014 (from 68 percent in 2007 to 61 percent today) among households with children. Not only is homeownership a key asset and financial investment for many families, it also plays an important role in the stability of children’s lives.

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Looking at the changes between 2007 and 2014 by family type, the data show that the percentage of children living in owned homes:

  • dropped 6 percentage points for those living in families with cohabiting parents;
  • dropped 5 percentage points for those living in families with married parents; and
  • dropped 6 percentage points for those living with a father only.

There was no statistical difference among children living with their mother only and among those living without a parent. For children living with their mother only, the smaller drop in homeownership may be because they were less likely to live in an owned home to begin with.

In general, while most children living in two-parent homes live in an owned home, there is a large difference between married-parent families and cohabiting-parent families. In 2014, three quarters of children with married parents lived in an owned home, compared with just one-third of children with cohabiting parents.

The majority of children who live with married parents, their father only, or with no parents (for example, they live with grandparents) are living in an owned home. In contrast, children living with parents who cohabit or with their mother only tend to live in a rented home.

RS2 RS3Emily Schondelmyer is a demographer in the Census Bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch.

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Statistical Definition of ‘Family’ Unchanged Since 1930

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By David Pemberton, historian

What is the Census Bureau’s definition of “family”?

Printed decennial census reports from 1930 to the present are consistent in their definition of “family.” The 2010 version states: “A family consists of a householder and one or more other people living in the same household who are related to the householder by birth, marriage or adoption.”

The 1930 version is strikingly similar: “Persons related in any way to the head of the family by blood, marriage or adoption are counted as members of the family.”

But prior to 1930, the definition of a family was quite different.

The 1920 version went like this: “The term ‘family’ as here used signifies a group of persons, whether related by blood or not, who live together as one household, usually sharing the same table. One person living alone is counted as a family, and, on the other hand, the occupants or inmates of a hotel or institution, however numerous, are treated as a single family.”

The 1900 Census announced: “The word family has a much wider application, as used for census purposes, than it has in ordinary speech. As a census term, it may stand for a group of individuals who occupy jointly a dwelling place or part of a dwelling place or for an individual living alone in any place of abode. All the occupants and employees of a hotel, if they regularly sleep there, make up a single family, because they occupy one dwelling place …”

The older definition is closer to the current use of the term “household.”

Enumerator instructions beginning in at least 1860 and extending at least through 1940 emphasize this older definition of family.

Here is an example from the 1860 instructions: “By the term ‘family’ is meant either one person living separately and alone in a house, or a part of a house, and providing for him or herself, or several persons living together in a house, or part of a house, upon one common means of support and separately from others in similar circumstances. A widow living alone and separately providing for herself, or 200 individuals living together and provided for by a common head, should each be numbered as one family.”

The 1870 instructions add the element of eating together as one defining element of a family: “Under whatever circumstances, and in whatever numbers, people live together under one roof, and are provided for at a common table, there is a family in the meaning of the law.”

By 1930, the concept of a “household” had become more important and by implication was separated from the term “family”: “A household for census purposes is a family or any other group of persons, whether or not related by blood or marriage, living together with common housekeeping arrangements in the same living quarters.”

In 1960, the concepts of household and family were even more clearly delineated: “A household consists of a group of people who sleep in the same dwelling unit and usually have common arrangements for the preparation and consumption of food. Most households consist of a related family group. In some cases, you may find three generations represented in one household. Some household members may have no family relationship to the central group — boarders and servants, for example — but they should be included with the household if they eat and sleep in the same dwelling unit.”

In summary, the definition of family before 1930 was more similar to today’s definition of household. However, since 1930, the definition of family has remained the same, and includes those who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption.

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A Change in Circumstances: Family and Household Transitions and Child Well-Being

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Written By: Lynda Laughlin

Change is inevitable, but how often things change can matter for the well-being of children. A new report, A Child’s Day: Living Arrangements, Nativity, and Family Transitions: 2011, uses multiyear data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation to understand how often children experience family and household transitions.

The new report examines three types of transitions that children potentially face. A family structure transition occurs if the child experienced a change in family structure due to a parent getting married, divorced or cohabiting with a new partner. An employment transition occurs if either parent in the household lost or gained a job. Lastly, a residential transition occurs if the child moved at any point.

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Over half (56 percent) of children experienced at least one type of transition between 2008 and 2011. The most common type of transition that children experienced was a change in a parent’s employment status (32 percent). Family income was associated with the occurrence of a household or economic transition.

Children living in economically well-off families (300 percent of poverty or higher) were less likely to experience a family, residential or parental employment transition compared with children living in families with monthly incomes below the poverty threshold.

Changes in the home environment and economic resources often overlap. Figure 1  shows how often changes in family structure, residential location and parental employment coincided among children who had at least one transition between 2008 and 2011. Overall, 56 percent (38.2 million) of children experienced at least one transition.

Of the 12.4 million children who experienced a family structure transition, 4.8 million also experienced a parental employment transition (39 percent). Among children who moved(19.6 million), a higher proportion of children were more likely to have also experienced a parental employment transition (42 percent) than to have undergone a residential move and change in family structure (26 percent). Overall, 3 percent (2.3 million) of children encountered all three transitions at least once between 2008 and 2011.

Children living below poverty were more likely to have encountered all three transitions compared with children living at or above poverty (6 percent and 3 percent, respectively).

Instability is often linked to child outcomes and is examined in more detail in our new report: http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2014/demo/p70-139.pdf.

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Are Today’s Young Adults Better Off Than Their Parents? Yes and No

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By Jonathan Vespa

Compared with prior generations, young people today, those 18 to 34 years old, are more educated and, in some parts of the country, earn more. However, they are also less likely to be employed and more likely to live in poverty than their counterparts were in 1980.

Blog_Img1Although today’s typical 18- to 34-year-old earns about $2,000 less per year (adjusted for inflation) than their counterpart in 1980, the range varies widely across the country. Among the states with the largest growth in earnings for young adults is Massachusetts where they earn $6,500 more, and Virginia where they earn $4,100 more than the average young adult earned 30 years ago. Among the lowest are Michigan, Wyoming and Alaska where young adults earn at least $9,000 less than they did 30 years ago.

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Similar geographic patterns play out for education, poverty and living arrangements, revealing that the generation of young adults who are doing better than their parents are concentrated in certain parts of the country.

Hubs in the Northeast (New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts) and South (Virginia, Maryland) have experienced near-double-digit growth in young college graduates, while the rest of the country has lagged. Since the 1960s, the Midwest has been a net loser of young adults who are college educated, as they have moved throughout the West and South.

The share of young adults who lived in their parents’ home stayed about the same level in 1980, 1990 and 2000 (at about a quarter). Since 2000, however, the proportion has shot up, from 23 percent to 30 percent. In states where housing markets collapsed during the recession, such as Nevada, Florida and California, there was a sharp increase in young adults living in their parents’ home. Similarly, Michigan, Ohio and Indiana — states also hit hard by the recession — saw some of the biggest growth in young adults living in poverty.

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Young adults’ experiences may reflect a rise in inequality. Since the 1980s, income inequality for households and families has gone up at the same time as the country as a whole has become more educated. The picture that emerges from these statistics reveals a generation of young adults who may be, at once, both better and worse off than their parents.

Want to see how today’s young adults age 18-34 compare with their counterparts in 1980, 1990 and 2000? Check out Young Adults: Then and Now,” the latest edition of Census Explorer, our interactive data tool. The new edition displays multiple characteristics of young adults over time. Users can “zoom in” to see data variations at the state, county, metro and tract levels.

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Census Bureau to Host Pre-Release Webinar on New Set of American Community Survey Statistics for Communities Nationwide

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