Single Parents Are Raising More Than One-Third of U.S. Kids

Posted June 12, 2018
Likelihood that kids grow up in a single-parent family by race and ethnicity

For the last six years, the preva­lence of U.S. chil­dren grow­ing up in sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies has held steady at 35%. In 2016 — the most recent full year of data on record — this rate trans­lat­ed to more than 24 mil­lion kids hav­ing just one par­ent at home.

This sta­tis­tic varies — and wide­ly — by race and eth­nic­i­ty. Both African Amer­i­can and Amer­i­can Indi­an chil­dren are more like­ly to live at home with one par­ent ver­sus two, accord­ing to the KIDS COUNT Data Cen­ter. In 2016, 66% of all African Amer­i­can kids and 52% of all Amer­i­can Indi­an kids — 6.6 mil­lion chil­dren com­bined — hailed from sin­gle-par­ent families.

At the oth­er end of the spec­trum: Asian and Pacif­ic Islander chil­dren are less like­ly to grow up with one par­ent. Six­teen per­cent of kids from this demo­graph­ic group — 572,000 chil­dren total — have one par­ent at home.

Why Fam­i­ly Struc­ture Matters

Kids are less like­ly to expe­ri­ence pover­ty when they grow up with both par­ents at home. For exam­ple: In 2016, 32% of sin­gle-par­ent fam­i­lies with chil­dren were liv­ing in pover­ty ver­sus just 7% of two-par­ent families.

The lit­er­a­ture doc­u­ment­ing the detri­men­tal effects of grow­ing up poor is sweep­ing and strong. Some of the many chal­lenges iden­ti­fied include: aca­d­e­m­ic deficits, reduced access to safe com­mu­ni­ties and qual­i­ty enrich­ment activ­i­ties, and a height­ened risk of phys­i­cal, behav­ioral and emo­tion­al issues.

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