Change in Common Household Types in the U.S.

In the 1970s, the most common household type in the U.S. was a married couple with kids. But over time, as people wait longer to get married and have fewer kids (if any), it’s grown more common to live alone or with non-family. The chart below shows the shifts between 1976 through 2021.

1976

1980

1990

2000

2010

2020

ONE-PERSON

MARRIED COUPLE

WITH CHILDREN

As people wait longer to have kids, households of married couples with children are less common.

It is most common to live alone these days.

28% of U.S.

Households

in 2021

37% of U.S.

Households

in 1976

MARRIED COUPLE

WITH NO CHILDREN

22%

MARRIED COUPLE

WITH NO CHILDREN

23%

MARRIED COUPLE

WITH CHILDREN

21%

ONE-PERSON

21%

It is also more common now to live with roommates and/or non-family.

COMPOSITE

11%

EXTENDED

7%

EXTENDED

9%

SINGLE MOTHER

7%

SINGLE MOTHER

6%

4%

COMPOSITE

SINGLE FATHER

2%

SINGLE FATHER

1%

1976

1980

1990

2000

2010

2020

SOURCE: CURRENT POPULATION SURVEY / IPUMS

1980

1990

2000

2010

2020

As people wait longer to have kids, households of married couples with children are less common.

It is most common to live alone these days.

ONE-PERSON

28% of U.S.

Households

in 2021

MARRIED COUPLE

W/O CHILDREN

22%

MARRIED COUPLE

W/ CHILDREN

21%

It is also more common now to live with roommates.

COMPOSITE

11%

EXTENDED

9%

SINGLE MOTHER 6%

SINGLE FATHER 2%

1980

1990

2000

2010

2020

SOURCE: CURRENT POPULATION SURVEY / IPUMS

While there are many household types, the ones here are based on definitions from the United Nations Statistics Division. They define four main types of households:

  • One-person household
  • Nuclear household — a household with a single family nucleus
  • Extended household — a household with a single family nucleus with other people related to the nucleus
  • Composite — A mix of nuclei or non-related people

They further breakdown the nuclear household to married with children, married without children, a father with children, and a mother with children.

Most of the change occurs among married couples with children, one-person, and composite households. The other types vary relatively little over the selected decades.

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