Family Structure in the Nineteenth Century Essay

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Family Structure in the Nineteenth Century
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Abstract

Family structure in the United States has undergone a dramatic change since the 1960's. The percentage of female-headed households increased while the percentage of married couple households declined. This paper uses data from the Urban Underclass Database to explain the roles the transforming economy (from manufacturing to service) and the subsequent employment dislocation play in the family structure change. Results for the largest 100 cities in the United States find support for a relationship between changes in the economy, subsequent male unemployment, and family
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Bureau of the Census 1961). By 1990 married couple families accounted for 79.2 percent of all families (10.5 percent decline from 1970) and 16.5 percent of all families were female-headed (65 percent growth) (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1990).

These changes are most dramatic if the living arrangements of children are examined. In 1960 for all children under age 18, 90.0 percent lived in married couple families while 6.1 percent resided in female-headed families (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1991). In contrast, by 1990, 72.5 percent of all children under 18 lived in married couple families while 21.6 percent lived in mother-only families. Additionally, if differentiated by race, 19.9 percent of all black children lived in female-headed families in 1960. By 1990, this number increased to 51.2 percent.

Single parent families, especially those headed by a female, differ greatly from married couple families in their characteristics. Single parent families are more likely to be poor, receive welfare, and contain young children. In 1990 female-headed households had a poverty rate of 33.4 percent while poverty rates for married couple and male-headed households were 5.7 and 12.0, respectively. (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1991a). As reflected by their higher poverty rate, the earnings power of women heading households is far less than that of married couples or male only
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