Report: Today’s Families Vastly Different from 20, 50 Years Ago

Do families of today look anything like families of 50 or even 20 years ago? According to Today’s Catholic News, they do not.  Now, with blended and extended families, divorce, remarriage, cohabitation, worldwide migration, economic turmoil and war, the old model of mother, father, and children is getting harder to find. However, children are most likely to live in two-parent families in all countries except South Africa, as indicated by the World Family Map 2014, a research project supported by the Maryland-based non-profit Child Trends, along with multiple educational and nongovernmental institutions from across the globe.

“The family is the core institution for child-rearing worldwide, and decades of research have shown that strong families promote positive child outcomes,” said Laura Lippman, co-director of the World Family Map and senior program director for education at Child Trends.

The report also found that “growing up with a single parent is common in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South America, and several English-speaking Western countries”.  Other findings include: Worldwide marriage rates for 18-49 are declining, but remain high for Asia and the Middle East, and are low in Central/South America; cohabitation for 18-49 year-old adults is at 30% in Central and South America and 20% in some European countries.

The “typical family” of the 1960s “breadwinner and stay-at-home mom” applies to only about 22% of American children today.  Also, in 1960, the US was 85% white, 10% black, and 4% Hispanic.  By 2060, according to Paul Taylor, author of “The Next America: Boomers, Millennials and the Looming Generational Showdown”, who is also executive vice president at the Pew Research Center, whites will make up 43% of the population, Hispanics 31%, African-Americans 13%, Asian-Americans 8% and other races and ethnicities 6%.

More information from the Pew Research Center includes differences between conservatives and liberals concerning which qualities are important for parents to teach children.  Some of the findings shared were: conservatives prioritize teaching faith and obedience, while liberals put more value in tolerance; consistent liberals think that curiosity, creativity, and empathy for others is important; across all types of liberals and conservatives, responsibility, hard work, good manners, helping others, independence, and persistence are considered important; across all ideological groups responsibility tops the list.  In general, there was some common ground, with the widest gaps being faith, tolerance and obedience.

Hispanic children are the largest minority group in public schools at this time, and are also the fastest growing.  There are more Hispanic preschool students than ever before.

Hispanic children are making significant gains on national math exams and Hispanic high school students are graduating at increasingly higher rates.  This information is a result of an analysis of recent Census data about the country’s 17.5 million Hispanic children and teenagers, according to Lyndsey Layton of The Washington Post.

In 2013, more than 90% of Hispanic children were born in the US.   Their family connections were in Mexico, Puerto Rico, El Salvador, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and other Central and South American countries.  Most Hispanic children live in a household with both parents; eat a meal with their families six or seven days a week; are considered low-income; are less likely to be read to by their parents; are increasingly enrolling in early education programs; and are increasingly enrolling in college.

Latinos showed the greatest improvement last year in improving their financial status.  Their poverty rate dropped 2.1 percentage points, along with an increase in median household income, the first since 2000, writes Jim Puzzanghera of the Los Angeles Times. As a whole, the improving labor market is minimizing the poverty rate in the US.

“The fact unquestionably remains that the economic recovery has not done much to lift the living standards of most poor and middle-income households,” said Jared Bernstein, senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and a former economic advisor to Vice President Joe Biden.

Much more needs to be done say many analysts.  Still there has been a ray of hope when the poverty rate began dropping after being stagnate at 15% since 2010.  The drop in childhood poverty was particularly heartening, since it fell to 19.9% last year from 21.8% according to the Census Bureau.