NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Is American's Love Affair with Kids Waning?

June 6, 2011

Children, the mainstay of suburbia and residential neighborhoods across the nation for more than a half-century, are fewer and increasingly sparse in many places.  The share of the population under age 18 has dropped in 95 percent of U.S. counties since 2000, says USA Today.

  • The number of households that have children under age 18 has stayed at 38 million since 2000, despite a 9.7 percent growth in the U.S. population.
  • As a result, the share of households with children dropped from 36 percent in 2000 to 33.5 percent.
  • There are now more households with dogs (43 million) than children.

Americans are getting older, and women are having children later.  And when they do, they are not having as many.  Births among Hispanics -- they make up 23.1 percent of those under 18, up from 17.1 percent in 2000 -- have not been enough to stem the overall decline.  Because families with children tend to live near each other, the result is an increasingly patchy landscape of communities teeming with kids and others with very few.

  • Children make up 24 percent of the nation's population, down from 25.7 percent in 2000.
  • The kid population declined more precipitously in 58.6 percent of the country's 3,143 counties.
  • The number of counties that had a greater share of kids than the national average fell from 1,378 to 1,247.
  • Even in counties where the percentage of children grew, only 49 gained more than 1 percentage point -- many of them suburbs on the outer edge of metropolitan areas.

Source: Haya El Nasser and Paul Overberg, "Is America's Love Affair with Kids Waning?" USA Today, June 3, 2011.

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