Living Arrangements of Children: 1996

April 2001
Report Number: P70-74
Jason Fields
Current Population Reports, Household Economic Studies


Children live in a variety of family arrangements, some of which are complex, as a consequence of the marriage, divorce, and remarriage patterns of their parents. In addition, one-third of children today are born out-of-wedlock and may grow up in single-parent families or spend significant portions of their lives with other relatives or stepparents. This report examines the diversity of children’s living arrangements in American households. The data are from the household relationship module of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), collected in the fall of 1996,and update a 1994 study that presented estimates from the 1991 SIPP panel of the number of children growing up in various family situations.

As in the earlier survey, detailed information was obtained on each person’s relationship to every other person in the household, permitting the identification of many types of relatives, and parent-child and sibling relationships. This report describes family situations beyond the traditional nuclear family of parents and their children and includes discussions of extended family households with relatives and nonrelatives who may contribute substantially to a child’s development and to the household’s economic well-being.

This report also examines the degree to which children are living in single-parent families, with stepparents and adoptive parents, or with no parents and in the care of another relative or guardian. Of special interest in this report are new estimates of children living with unmarried cohabiting parents (either with both of their biological parents who are not married to each other, or with a parent and an unmarried partner who is not the child’s biological parent.

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