Trendbook Excerpt: Growing Diversity in Family Living Arrangements

By Amada Torres

This is an excerpt from the 2017-2018 NAIS Trendbook.

Today there is no one typical family in America. The new norm is a diverse range of family types. While two-parent households have been declining, divorce, remarriage, and cohabitation are on the rise. 
As family structures have changed, so has the fluidity of the family. Family structures in many cases evolve throughout a child’s life because of his or her parents’ nonmarital cohabitation and divorce as well as remarriage and nonmarital recoupling. A Census study on children’s living arrangements found that in a three-year period, 31 percent of children under 6 years old experienced the departure or entrance of a parent or a parent’s cohabiting partner. This percentage is much lower for children 6 to 17 years old (13 percent). 

A study by the Pew Research Center found that, in 1960, 73 percent of children were living with two parents who were in their first marriage. By 2014, only 46 percent of children were living in that type of family. Moreover, there was a significant increase in the percentage of children living with a single parent, from 9 percent in 1960 to 26 percent in 2014. 

These trends also vary depending on parents’ race, ethnicity, and educational attainment (see the figures below). Most Asian, white, and Hispanic children are living in two-parent households, while the percentage of black children living in this type of arrangement is much lower (38 percent). 

Similarly, children in households with at least one college-educated parent are far more likely to be living in a two-parent household and to be living with two parents in a first marriage than children whose parents are less educated (67 percent compared to 33 percent for parents with a high school education or less).

The Trendbook, NAIS’s annual guide to issues affecting independent schools, includes research, data, Strategic Questions, Action Steps, and Resources. Read about additional trends in demographics, enrollment, financial aid, and more in the 2017-2018 NAIS Trendbook, available in the NAIS Bookstore.
Then review the NAIS Principles of Good Practice for Parents Working for Schools and Schools Working with Parents.