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The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the percentage of households headed by older adults has grown significantly over the last half century. The share of householders age 75 and older grew from 6 percent in 1960 to 10 percent in 2012.
In 1960, 32 percent of all households in the country were headed by 30- to 44-year-olds (see Figure 1). However, by 2012, the percentage of these households had fallen to 26 percent, after peaking at 34 percent in 1990. The share of households headed by older adults expanded as the number of 45- to 64-year-old householders shrank in the 1980s and 1990s but began growing again in 2000. These households now make up 39 percent of households in 2012.
These statistics come from America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2012, a series of tables from the 2012 Current Population Survey. The tables provide a look at the socio-economic characteristics of families and households at the national level. A series of 13 graphs showing historical trends are also available with these estimates.
“These changes are related to baby boomers, that large segment of the American population born between 1946 and 1964,” said Jonathan Vespa, a demographer with the Census Bureau’s Fertility and Family Statistics Branch. “As they moved through young adulthood to middle age, and now into older adulthood, we can see an accordion-like effect on the age groups as they expand and shrink.”
A large proportion of older householders live alone (see Figure 2). In 2012, more than half of householders 75 and older lived alone, compared with almost a quarter of householders under age 30.
The largest concentration of households with five or more people was among the 30 to 44 age group. These householders were likely to be living with their children who were younger than 18.
The latest Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey was conducted in February, March and April of 2012 for a nationwide sample of about 100,000 addresses. Statistics from surveys are subject to sampling and nonsampling error. For more information on the source of the data and accuracy of the estimates, including standard errors and confidence intervals, see Appendix G at <https://www.census.gov/apsd/techdoc/cps/cpsmar12.pdf>.