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American Families and Households

American Families and Households

James A. Sweet
Larry L. Bumpass
Copyright Date: 1987
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    American Families and Households
    Book Description:

    Changes in family and household composition are part of every individual's life course. Childhood families expand and contract; the individual leaves to set up an independent household; he or she may marry, raise children, lose a spouse. These transitions have a profound effect on the economic and social well-being of individuals, and the relative prevalence of different living arrangements affects the very character of society.

    American families and Householdstakes advantage of the large samples provided by the decennial censuses to document recent major transformations in the individual life cycle and consequent changes in the composition of the American population. As James Sweet and Larry Bumpass demonstrate, these changes have been dramatic-rates of marriage and childbirth are down, rates of marital disruption are up, and those who can are more likely to maintain independent households despite the rapid acceleration of change during recent years, however, the authors find that contemporary trends are continuous with long-term changes in Western society.

    This meticulous work makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the American Family and the individual life experiences that are translated into the larger population experience.

    "Jim Sweet and Larry Bumpass provide detailed descriptions of three components of the households and families of Americans: family transitions; the prevalence of different family and household arrangements; and the economic and social circumstances of people living in different types of families and households....As a reference work, the volume is a gold mine, with many rich veins of useful information....Anyone interested in American families and how they have been changing will want to refer to this volume." -American Journal of Sociology

    A Volume in the Russell Sage Foundation Census Series

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-523-8
    Subjects: Population Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Charles F. Westoff

    American Families and Householdsis one of an ambitious series of volumes aimed at converting the vast statistical yield of the 1980 census into authoritative analyses of major changes and trends in American life. This series, “The Population of the United States in the 1980s” represents an important episode in social science research and revives a long tradition of independent census analysis. First in 1930, and then again in 1950 and 1960, teams of social scientists worked with the U.S. Bureau of the Census to investigate significant social, economic, and demographic developments revealed by the decennial censuses. These census projects...

  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xv-xxviii)
  5. List of Figures
    (pp. xxix-xxxii)
    (pp. 1-8)

    Even though family relationships extend beyond household boundaries, household living arrangements are among the most significant aspects of everyday life. Household membership defines a set of primary relationships, a pool of resources, and a number of persons with whom those resources are shared. These arrangements have a profound effect on the economic and social well-being of individuals, and the relative prevalence of different types of arrangements, with associated differences in resources and lifestyles, affects the very character of our society.

    Changes in family and household composition are a normal part of the life course of individuals. Even a life history...

    (pp. 9-51)

    This chapter is composed of three major sections. Trends in first marriage are examined, taking advantage of the potential of the census data to provide both cohort and period descriptions for major population subgroups. Following this, differentials in marriage patterns are examined in more detail for the cohort that has recently reached age 30. Finally, characteristics of recent first marriages (including early fertility, living arrangements, and patterns of intermarriagel are detailed for marriages in the year preceding the census enumeration. This chapter is concerned with first-marriage patterns; remarriage is discussed in Chapter 5.

    Information on trends in marriage rates is...

    (pp. 52-114)

    We discussed the trend in age at first marriage in Chapter 2. There was a post-World War II “marriage boom” as well as a “baby boom.” Young men and women accelerated the timing of their first marriage, and almost everyone married. The median age at first marriage of women dropped from almost 22 to about 20.6 years. Beginning in the 1960s and continuing into the 1970s and 1980s there was a reversal of the trend in age at first marriage. Young women delayed their marriages, and about two years have been added to the median age at first marriage. (The...

    (pp. 115-171)

    Even though both the ages at which people marry and the fraction of marriages ending in separation and divorce have increased considerably in recent years, Americans continue to spend the majority of their adult years living with a spouse. Nonetheless, recent social trends have altered the experience of married couples.

    1. Fertility has decreased. There has been both a reduction in the total number of births per couple and an increase in the interval between births. Couples spend more of their married lives, particularly at younger ages, with no children in the household.

    2. Increased rates of divorce, combined with...

    (pp. 172-210)

    This is the first of two chapters dealing with disrupted marriages. This chapter deals with theincidenceof marital disruption—the rate at which marriages are being disrupted. The next chapter deals with theprevalenceof formerly married persons in the population—the number and characteristics of persons who are no longer married. Incidence and prevalence are often confused. Incidence refers to a “flow” or a rate at which a particular marital status transition occurs, whereas prevalence refers to the “stock” of persons who at a given point in time are in a disrupted marital status. We will focus primarily...

    (pp. 211-261)

    We discussed the incidence of divorce, widowhood, and remarriage in Chapter 5. We turn now to the formerly married population.¹ At any point in time, this population is the outcome of complex patterns of inflow and outflow. One can be formerly married only by having first married and then having experienced separation, divorce, or widowhood; and one remains in this status only until reconciliation, remarriage, or death. Thus, trends over time and differentials among groups in the prevalence of the formerly married are the joint product of differences in these component processes. Many widowed, and most separated or divorced persons,...

  12. 7 CHILDREN
    (pp. 262-293)

    The family experiences of children have been altered dramatically by increases in separation, divorce, and nonmarital fertility. These changes have been offset somewhat by the decreased like-lihood of parental death¹; nevertheless, there has been a marked increase in the proportion of children who spend part of their childhood in a one-parent family. The life histories of individuals, and their family relationships, have become much more complex. Only a minority of persons spend all of their childhood living with both parents. And as Cherlin has documented, kin relationships are more and more complex, as parental divorce and remarriage creates step-parents, step-siblings,...

    (pp. 294-334)

    In this chapter we turn our attention to the family and household situation of the older population of the United States. Persons age 60 and over are the focus; and when married couples are the unit of analysis, a couple is included if the husband is age 60 or more. Throughout the chapter we will divide this elderly population by age-typically in five-year intervals, with an upper interval of 85 and over.

    We begin with a brief description of the size and growth of the elderly population. We then examine some of its characteristics, including its age and education composition,...

    (pp. 335-360)

    The term “household” is used almost identically in the United States Census as in everyday language. It refers to all of the people who live together in the same housing unit.¹ In almost all cases the identity and composition of a household is very clear. For example, a household might include a husband, wife, and their children; a divorced woman and her child; or three college students sharing an off-campus apartment. A single person living alone would also be a separate household, and is included in the census count of households.

    There are, on occasion, ambiguous cases. For example, if...

    (pp. 361-390)

    In this chapter we will examine in greater detail the size and characteristics of three subtypes of households: (1) female-headed families; (2) male-headed families other than married couples; and (3) nonfamily households. In addition, the final section will describe the population living in group quarters and secondary and subfamilies. These sections will describe both the prevalence and the characteristics of each of these family or household types.

    Between 1940 and 1970 the number of female-headed families increased from about 3.2 million to 5.6 million, but their relative prevalence remained at about 10 percent of all families (Table 10.1). During the...

    (pp. 391-402)

    As stated at the outset, this book has been designed to make much detailed information easily accessible to a broad community of scholars interested in family and household issues. In the attempt to provide such a reference work, we have intentionally kept very close to the information being provided and have not engaged the large theoretical and social policy issues that appear at almost every turn. This concluding note reflects on the interpretation and implications of the seemingly radical changes in American family and house-hold experience. Since substantive summaries can be found at the end of each chapter, that detail...

  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 403-408)
  18. Name Index
    (pp. 409-412)
  19. Subject Index
    (pp. 413-416)