Tags: traditional family | shifting economy | marriage

Tumultuous Economy Changing the American Family Structure

Image: Tumultuous Economy Changing the American Family Structure
(Hongqi Zhang (aka Michael Zhang)/Dreamstime)

By    |   Wednesday, 18 Mar 2015 11:25 AM

The traditional American family culture — first marriage, then babies, with dad working to support the family and mom at home taking care of the house and kids — is fast disappearing, and experts blame the changing economy for upending the family structure.

A recent Pew Research Center study found that 40 percent of children now are born to unmarried couples, or eight times the number born that way in 1960.

Pew also found that 40 percent of households with children under 18 are being mainly financed by mothers who are the primary source of income, up from just 11 percent in 1960. These include either single mothers, 63 percent or 8.6 million, or married mothers who earn more than their husbands, at 37 percent, or 5.1 million.

In the same time period, NBC News reports, the number of married adults has declined from 72 percent 50 years ago to about half today.

"These shifts are intimately connected to the reordering of economic institutions that once underpinned middle and working-class family life," NBC reports. "As industrial sector and professional jobs that a half a century ago provided men with enough income to support a family disappear, so has the attachment to marriage as a prerequisite for an economically stable life."

Marriage is especially on a downtrend among those with lower education and economic levels.

Ronald Mincy of Columbia University's School of Social Work told NBC: "One of the most important determinants of marriage historically has had to do with men's earnings. It's now the case that men now have lower real earnings than their fathers, even if they have the same level of education. Men's earnings in particular are important to the decision to whether people get married. If men are not earning high wages, there's less draw to get married."

A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that "labor market conditions play a large role in explaining the positive relationship between educational attainment and marriage. Our results suggest that if low-educated parents faced the same (stronger) labor market conditions as their more-educated counterparts, then differences in marriage by education would narrow considerably. Better labor markets are positively related to marriage for fathers at all educational levels."

That the economy affects the likelihood of marriage also is supported by research from sociologist Andrew Cherlin of Johns Hopkins University, who found that 56 percent of men between 20 and 49 with higher-paying jobs were married in 2013, as compared to just 31 percent of those with lower-paying jobs, NBC News reports.

The negative influence of the changing economy on marriage may not easily be reversed, even by a growing economy.

Isabel Sawhill, of the Center on Children and Families, told NBC News: "The economy has not been supportive of marriage. As marriage has disappeared and other lifestyles — single and unmarried parenthood — have become more prevalent, these family structures have gained a staying power that's not easily reversed simply by changing the economic environment."

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The traditional American family culture — first marriage, then babies, with dad working to support the family and mom at home taking care of the house and kids — is fast disappearing, and experts blame the changing economy for upending the family structure.
traditional family, shifting economy, marriage
492
2015-25-18
Wednesday, 18 Mar 2015 11:25 AM
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