U.S. has world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households

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Pew Research Center

BY STEPHANIE KRAMER

For decades, the share of U.S. children living with a single parent has been rising, accompanied by a decline in marriage rates and a rise in births outside of marriage. A new Pew Research Center study of 130 countries and territories shows that the U.S. has the world’s highest rate of children living in single-parent households.

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%). The study, which analyzed how people’s living arrangements differ by religion, also found that U.S. children from Christian and religiously unaffiliated families are about equally likely to live in this type of arrangement.

In comparison, 3% of children in China, 4% of children in Nigeria and 5% of children in India live in single-parent households. In neighboring Canada, the share is 15%.

About a quarter of U.S. children live in single-parent homes, more than in any other countryWhile U.S. children are more likely than children elsewhere to live in single-parent households, they’re much less likely to live in extended families. In the U.S., 8% of children live with relatives such as aunts and grandparents, compared with 38% of children globally.

Researchers have different ways of categorizing single-parent households. In this report, single-parent households have a sole adult living with at least one biological, step or foster child under age 18. Some other organizations, including the U.S Census Bureau, also include households that have grandparents, other relatives or cohabiting partners present.

Economic well-being a factor in household size

Around the world, living in extended families is linked with lower levels of economic development: Financial resources stretch further and domestic chores such as childcare are more easily accomplished when shared among several adults living together.

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