Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Rise (?) of Single Parenting Nationally and Locally

Recently I came across this article from the PEW Research Center about the "Rise of Single Fathers".  As they point out in the article:

“A record 8% of households with minor children in the United States are headed by a single father, up from just over 1% in 1960, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Decennial Census and American Community Survey data.

The number of single father households has increased about nine-fold since 1960, from less than 300,000 to more than 2.6 million in 2011.1 In comparison, the number of single mother households increased more than fourfold during that time period, up to 8.6 million in 2011, from 1.9 million in 1960.

As a result, men make up a growing share of single parent householders.2 In 1960, about 14% of single parent households were headed by fathers, today almost one-quarter (24%) are.”

When you look at the local data on family types with minor children in the home, you find some interesting trends as well. Just like the national data, we have seen a rise in the percent of families with minor children being headed by single parents. Between 1970 and 2010, the percent of families with children under the age of 18 who were headed by a single mom or dad went from about 11% to 35% in Oneida County, and in Herkimer County it rose from 9% to about 34%. These are three to four fold increases in the percentage of families experiencing single parenting.
Click to Enlarge Herkimer County Data
Click to Enlarge Oneida County Data

Obviously these increases correspond to decreases in the percentage of families with children under the age of 18 present that are headed by two parents. While in 1970 around 90% of the families with minor children were two parent families, by 2010 this number had dropped to below 65% in both counties.

I also looked at the median family incomes of these various "families with minor children present" configurations by examining the three year estimates from the American Communities Survey data for 2011. Not surprisingly married couple families with minor children at home make considerably more than their single parent compatriots.

In Herkimer County the median family income for a two parent family with minor children present is slightly above $65,000 a year; in Oneida County it was over $77,000 annually. In comparison, female headed families with minor children present only had median incomes of about $28,000 in Herkimer County and $23,000 in Oneida County.

Click to Enlarge
 Interestingly, families with minor children that were headed by single males had median incomes that were more than 40% higher than those headed by single females. Single fathers with minor children at home had median incomes of roughly $39,000 in Herkimer County – 42% higher than their female counterparts. In Oneida County, single dad families had a median income of around $33,000, or 45% higher than female headed families with minor children at home. Having only a single adult wage earner clearly makes it more difficult for single parent families to make ends meet regardless of the gender of the parent.

This was clearly indicated when I looked at poverty data for each type of "family with minor children at home" in our region. Examining the combined data of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, and focusing on families in poverty, we find that for all three family types (married couples, single female and single male headed families) the data shows the presence of minor children in the home is exceeding common among those in poverty. In other words it is very common in our region for families struggling with poverty to have young children at home.

Among married couples in poverty, for example, 74% of all such families have 1 or more minor children at home.  As many as a third of married couples in poverty (35%) have 3 or more children living in the household.
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In comparison, we find a larger percentage of single parent families in poverty having minor children living in the household. About 88% of all single-mom families in poverty have children under the age of 18 living at home, and 92% of all single-dad families in poverty also have minor children in the household. In both these cases about a third (33% and 31%, respectively) have three or more children present.

So while our area has seen some similarity in the "rise" of single parenting, and specifically in terms of single father families, these families are still clearly struggling when ti comes to making ends meet.