Sunday, October 15, 2006

Closing the book on Ozzie and Harriet: Married households in decline

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Recent Census Bureau data shows that family life, however you describe it, is changing.

A New York Times article today relates that 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples — with and without children. That's down from 52 percent in 2000.

That means that 50.3 of American households are not a traditional family, but consist of unmarried adults, either alone or living together as partners or roommates.

The census survey estimated that 5.2 million couples, a little more than 5 percent of households, were unmarried opposite-sex partners. An additional 413,000 households were male couples, and 363,000 were female couples. In all, nearly one in 10 couples were unmarried. One in 20 households consisted of people living alone.

Living together without being married is on the rise. Since 2000, those identifying themselves as unmarried opposite-sex couples rose by about 14 percent, male couples by 24 percent and female couples by 12 percent. The survey did not ask about sexual orientation, but the question defined "partner [as] an adult who is unrelated to the householder, but shares living quarters and has a close personal relationship with the householder," which it is assumed served to keep platonic roommates in a separate category.

There has been a 77 percent increase in the number of male-partner households in the rural Midwest. That change in demographics will certainly give the old joke about the farmer's daughter a new twist.

Only 26 percent of Manhattan households were made up of married partners, while in Utah County, Utah, 69 percent of households were married. We assume the Utah families were a one-man, one-woman marriage, but who knows how deep polygamy really runs in Utah....

And what area holds the record for the most people living in sin? That would be Mendocino Country, Cal., with 11 percent of households made up of unmarried, opposite-sex couples.

San Francisco, Cal., had the most unmarried, same-sex households.

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