Indicator List for Marriage and Cohabitation

Marriage and Cohabitation

Today’s children are born into and grow up in many different types of families.  For example, four in ten babies in the U.S. are born to unmarried parents – either single or cohabiting. Child Trends tracks and analyzes the changes taking place in the structure of the American family over recent decades and how these changes impact children. We review the research literature, examine trends in the data, conduct qualitative studies, and evaluate programs intended to promote and support healthy relationships within and outside of marriage.

Indicator List for Marriage and Cohabitation


Child Care

Among children ages birth to four whose mothers were employed, 24 percent were primarily cared for by a parent during the hours their mother was working in 2011.


Child Support Receipt

Among custodial parents with a child support award, the percentage who received full payment of all support owed them in the previous year increased from 37 percent in 1994 to 43 percent in 2011.


Family Structure

The proportion of children living with both parents, following a marked decline between 1970 and 1990, has fallen more slowly over the most recent two decades, dropping from 69 percent in 2000 to 64 percent in 2012. By 2015, the proportion had actually increased, to 65 percent.


Fertility and Birth Rates

 In 2011, the birth rate for women ages 15 to 29 continued to decline across all age groups, following a small peak in 2007.  The fertility rate for all U. S. women is now the lowest it has been since these data have been recorded. 


Secure Parental Employment

As of 2013, more than one in four children (26 percent) did not have at least one resident parent employed full-time, year-round. Among children younger than six, three in ten (30 percent) were without secure parental employment and, of children in families headed by single mothers, more than half (58 percent).


Unintended Births

Between 2006 and 2010, more than one-third (37 percent) of all births in the United States were unintended, according to mothers’ reports.  Of these, nearly two-thirds of unintended births were mistimed, rather than unwanted.

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