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‘Typical’ Family An Illusion, Study Finds But The National Trend Away From ‘Ozzie And Harriet’ Ideal Has Slowed

Wed., Nov. 27, 1996, midnight

“Married, with children” families account for only 25 percent of all American households, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday, but experts say a trend away from the “Ozzie and Harriet” ideal of the 1950s may have slowed.

“The ‘typical’ household is an illusion,” said Ken Bryson, author of “Household and Family Characteristics: 1995,” a Census Bureau report on changes in the composition of American families over the past 25 years.

“The increasing diversity of household types continues to challenge our efforts to measure and describe American society,” he added.

Among the more striking findings in the report is that married couples with children made up only 25 percent of all American households in 1995, down from 40 percent in 1970.

However, the report suggests that the decline in the number of families that began in 1970 - when the first wave of post-World War II baby boomers was in early adulthood - has leveled off.

Last year, families - defined by the Census Bureau as households whose members are related by marriage, birth or adoption - made up 70 percent of America’s 98.9 million households.

That’s down from 81.2 percent in 1970, but nearly identical to the 70.8 percent recorded in 1990.

The trend toward living arrangements outside of what is typically thought of as traditional families may have “plateaued,” said Bryson, a Census Bureau statistician.

Indeed, “reports of the traditional family’s death are greatly exaggerated,” said William Mattox, a senior analyst at the Family Research Council, the conservative political organization that has been at the vanguard of the “family values” movement in the Republican Party.

Mattox said the Census Bureau report contains numerous “causes of concern” - one of the most significant being the rise in single-parent households from 5.6 million families in 1970 to 15.4 million in 1995.

Mattox said the increase is “a clear sign that all is not well on the home front.” However, Mattox cited data in the report that he believes suggests American families are not all that different from those of previous decades.

In 1940, nine out of 10 American households were made up of families with children, closely resembling the Nelsons on the fictional 1950s television program, “Ozzie and Harriet.”

In 1995, seven out of 10 American households were made up of families, nearly three-fourths of which were headed by a married couple.

“To a certain degree, the more things change, the more they remain the same,” Mattox said.

xxxx More findings Bryson’s report also found that: There were 2.65 people per household in 1995, compared to 3.14 in 1970. One out of every 10 households had five or more people in 1995, while in 1970, it was one out of every five households. People living alone made up one-fourth of households in 1995, compared to one-sixth of households in 1970. From 1970 to 1995, the share of households in metropolitan areas increased from two-thirds to four-fifths.

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