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American Householders are Getting Older, Census Bureau Reports

Figure 1. Households by age of householder: 1960-2012

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.

Figure 2. Distribution of household size by age of householder: 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.

Other highlights:

  • The number of couples living together without being married has more than doubled since the 1990s, from 2.9 million in 1996 to 7.8 million in 2012. In 2012, 40 percent of unmarried partners had children younger than 18.
  • The prevalence of married households continued to decline, from more than two-thirds (71 percent) of all households in 1970 to under half (49 percent) in 2012.
  • In 2012, 27 percent of households contained only one person, up from 17 percent in 1970. On average, American households contain 2.55 people.
  • The median age at first marriage in 2012 was 28.6 for men and 26.6 for women.
  • The share of all U.S. households headed by a white non-Hispanic adult fell to about two-thirds (69 percent) in 2012, down from three-quarters (75 percent) in 2000.
  • The share of households headed by 55- to 64-year-olds rose over the last two decades, from 13 percent in 1990 to 19 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, the share headed by adults who were younger than 30 fell from 16 percent to 13 percent.
  • The percentage of married couples with both the husband and wife in the labor force declined from 56 percent in 2000 to 52 percent in 2012.
  • Stay-at-home parents have become more common since the 1990s. Among married-couple families with children younger than 15, the percentage with stay-at-home mothers increased from 20 percent to 24 percent between 1994 and 2012. The 2012 estimate of 24 percent is not significantly different from either 2011 or 2007, before the start of the recession.
  • Almost all stay-at-home parents (96 percent) are mothers. However, between 1994 and 2012, the percentage of stay-at-home parents who were fathers increased from 1.6 percent to 3.6 percent and their numbers more than doubled from 76,000 to 189,000.
  • The percentage of children in 2012 living with two parents, regardless of their marital status, differs by race and Hispanic origin. Eighty-five percent of single-race Asian children lived with two parents compared with 77 percent of single-race white non-Hispanic children, 66 percent of Hispanic children and 38 percent of single-race black children.
  • Of the 73.8 million children in the United States in 2012, approximately 7.1 million (9.7 percent) lived with a grandparent.

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>.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | PIO@census.gov | Last Revised: May 19, 2016