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Culture Beat / Dec. 16, 2019

America's No. 1 ... in Single-Parent Households

A growing blight on U.S. culture is the number of children growing up in single-parent homes.

A new study from the Pew Research Center found that the U.S. “has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households.” The study notes that “almost a quarter of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults (23%), more than three times the share of children around the world who do so (7%).” Interestingly, the study also found that this percentage did not differ between Christian households and those of other religious affiliations.

Another telling statistic showed that 20% of American households have adult children between the ages of 18 and 34 living with their parents, which is a number similar to Canada. The study observes that “North America has a higher share of young adults who live in this arrangement than any other region.” Delayed adulthood?

On the other hand, “older adults in the U.S. are more likely than those around the world to age alone” as “more than a quarter of Americans ages 60 and older live alone (27%), compared with a global average of 16%.” And the most common household arrangement in the U.S. is adult couples living without any children or relatives (46%), while the global average is 31%.

There are clearly several factors that contribute to these numbers, but one that allows for more children living in single-parent households is a nation or region’s economic level. Countries with less economic development tend toward a lower number of single-parent households. Conversely, prosperous countries with highly developed economies experience higher levels of single-parent households. That’s ironic in a way because one of the surest ways out of poverty in America is to get married and have children.

While Americans enjoy great economic benefits, one of the unintended consequences appears to be a higher percentage of broken families than the global average. Obviously, a good economy is not the cause of this problem, though it does make single-parent households more financially feasible. The question is, what will be the unintended result of high numbers of American children growing up in single-parent households? The answer isn’t pretty.

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