The American Household As the population age profile has changed, so has the structure of the American household. In 1960, 75 percent of all households consisted of married couples. Today, that type of household is just 48 percent of the population. Only 20 percent of households are married couples with children, and only 10 percent are households with working fathers and stay-at-home moms. Some of the fastest-growing types of households are those with an adult child who has moved back home with his or her parents and those with unmarried partners. These two categories included 5.5 million individuals and 7.7 million couples, respectively.
Analysis by the U.S. Bureau of the Census indicates that young people are postponing marriage and parenthood and that the increase in households with unmarried partners reflects that “pooling resources by moving in together may be one method of coping with extended unemployment.” Businesses are adjusting to the changes because they have implications for purchases related to weddings, homes, baby and child products, and many other industries.11
The increase in cohabitation (households with unmarried partners) may be one reason the national divorce rate has declined during recent years. Even so, the likelihood that a couple will divorce exceeds 40 percent, and divorce among baby boomers—what is being called gray divorce—appears to be increasing. The majority of divorced people eventually remarry, which has created the blended family , one formed by merging two previously separated units into a single household. Today, one of every three Americans is a stepparent, stepchild, stepsibling, or some other member of a blended family. Hallmark Cards, Inc., now has specially designed cards and sentiments for blended families.
Population Shifts A major regional shift in the U.S. population toward Southern and Western states is under way. The most recent Census Bureau estimates indicate that the populations of Texas, Utah, North Dakota, and Colorado grew at the fastest rates, while the populations of Rhode Island and Michigan declined in size. Nearly a century ago each of the top 10 most populous cities in the United States was within 500 miles of the Canadian border. Today, 7 of the top 10 are in states that border Mexico. Last year, Texas gained more people than any other state—its population increased by more than 400,000!
Populations are also shifting within states. In the early 1900s, the population shifted from rural areas to cities. From the 1930s through the 2000s, the population shifted from cities to suburbs and then from suburbs to more remote suburbs called exurbs. The recent recession, however, has made it difficult for families to move, causing a reverse in the trend and revived growth in urban areas. Today, 30 percent of all Americans live in central cities, 50 percent live in suburbs, and 20 percent live in rural locations.