American Households Are Getting Smaller – And Headed by Older Adults

November 27, 2012

This article is included in these additional categories:

African-American | Boomers & Older | Hispanic | Men | Staffing | Women | Youth & Gen X

The average size of the American household has diminished by about one person over the past 65 years or so, according to new data from the US Census Bureau. The average population per household now stands at 2.55, down from 3.67 in 1948. Much of that decline is attributable to the growth in 1-person households, which have almost quintupled in number from 1960, and now account for 27% of all households.

Those single person households aren’t the domain of youth, either. In fact, more than half of householders 75 and older live alone as of this year. That compares to less than one-quarter of householders less than 30. (The definition of households excludes those living in group-quarters arrangements such as school dormitories, nursing homes, or military barracks.)

Aging Baby Boomers Shift the Householder Dynamics

Along with the decreasing size of the average household, another statistic stands out: the aging of the householder. The Census Bureau data shows that the percentage of households headed by adults aged 75 and older has grown from 6% in 1960 to 10% this year. And just in the past 12 years, the share of households headed by 30-44-year-olds has plummeted from a peak of 34% in 1990 to just 26% this year. The Census Bureau attributes these changes to the aging of the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964), who control 70% of US disposable income. Indeed, the percentage of households headed by adults aged 45-64 represents a plurality among age demographics, at 39%.

Other Findings:

  • There are now 7.8 million couples living together without being married, more than double the 2.9 million from 1996.
  • Married households make up 49% of all households, down from 71% in 1970.
  • The proportion of households headed by white non-Hispanic adults stands at 69% this year, down 8% from 75% in 2000.
  • 52% of married couples have both husband and wife in the labor force. That’s down from 56% in 2000.
  • The percentage of stay-at-home parents who are fathers has grown from 1.6% in 1994 (76,000) to 3.6% this year (189,000). Among married-couple parents with children younger than 15, the percentage with stay-at-home mothers is estimated to be 24%.
  • 85% of single-race Asian children live with 2 parents (whether married or not). That proportion falls to 77% among single-race white non-Hispanic children, 66% of Hispanic children, and 38% of single-race black children.

About the Data: The latest Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey was conducted in February, March and April of 2012 for a nationwide sample of about 100,000 addresses.

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