Oldest, Youngest, and Middle Children, in Differently Sized U.S. Households

When talking to someone new, the conversation often leads to your family when you were growing up. Do you have siblings? Older than you? Younger? I thought I’d try answering the questions for everyone in the United States. The chart below shows the distribution of kids younger than 18 by birth order and number of kids in the household.

BIRTH ORDER

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

5th

6th

7th

8th

9th

10th

KIDS IN THE

HOUSEHOLD

HOUSEHOLD TOTAL

PERCENTAGE

About 23% of kids were the only child in the household.

23%

1

23%

20% of kids were the oldest of two and 20% were the youngest of two.

2

It was most common to have two kids in the household.

20%

20%

40%

3

8%

8%

8%

23%

4

9%

2%

2%

2%

2%

YOUNGEST KIDS

Households with more than four children was increasingly more rare.

5

3%

1%

1%

1%

1%

1%

Out of kids with siblings, 40% were the youngest.

6

1%

OLDEST

KIDS

MIDDLE KIDS

7

<1%

Out of kids with siblings, 41% were the oldest.

8

<1%

Middle children unite.

9

<1%

10

<1%

55%

30%

11%

3%

1%

<1%

<1%

<1%

<1%

<1%

About 1% of kids were the fifth born.

BIRTH ORDER TOTAL PERCENTAGE

SOURCE: Current Population Survey, 2017–2021

BIRTH ORDER

1st

2nd

3rd

4th

5th

6th

7th

8th

9th

10th

KIDS IN HOUSEHOLD

HOUSEHOLD TOTAL PCT.

About 23% of kids were the only child in the household.

23%

1

23%

20% of kids were the oldest of two and 20% were the youngest of two.

2

40%

20%

20%

3

23%

8%

8%

8%

4

9%

2%

2%

2%

2%

YOUNGEST KIDS

5

3%

1%

1%

1%

1%

1%

Out of kids with siblings, 40% were the youngest.

6

1%

OLDEST

KIDS

MIDDLE KIDS

7

<1%

8

<1%

Out of kids with siblings, 41% were the oldest.

Middle children unite.

9

<1%

10

<1%

55%

30%

11%

3%

1%

<1%

<1%

<1%

<1%

<1%

About 1% of kids were the fifth born.

BIRTH ORDER

TOTAL PCT.

SOURCE: Current Population Survey, 2017–2021

This is based on the Current Population Survey between 2017 through 2021. The main caveat is that we only know the number of kids younger than 18 in the household, which means we don’t know the full family makeup of every household.

For example, a family with three kids but one who doesn’t live at home will count towards two kids in the household. So we only know the distribution of kids in the household during the time of the survey.

That said, the results seem to make sense. You see households with five or fewer kids cover about 98% of the households with at least one kid. Larger families appear to be more rare, maxing out at ten kids in the sample.

Notes

The data comes from the Current Population Survey from 2017 through 2021. I used microdata downloaded via IPUMS from March of each year.

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