Michigan State University Extension
Issue Identification Information - II493007

Focus on Michigan's Future: Changing Family and Household Patterns

Families and households in Michigan now come in more        
shapes and sizes than ever before. And just as Michigan     
families and households are coping with the changing        
society, so society is learning to deal with changing       
family patterns.                                            

The definition of "family" is expanding - in the courts     
and in practice - to include unmarried couples and other    
kinds of alternative families. Divorce and remarriage       
rates continue to be high, producing more single-parent,    
step and blended families.                                  

With changes come varying perspectives on family values     
that sometimes clash with and challenge governments and     
institutions as they relate to new and old family           

Household Composition                                       

According to the 1990 Census, a household includes all      
persons who occupy a housing unit. A family household is    
one in which persons are related by blood, marriage, or     
adoption. Nonfamily households are made up of people who    
live alone or share living quarters but are not related.    

 -  In Michigan, about two of every four households has a   
married couple as head; one of every four households has a  
single parent householder; and one of every four            
households does not include a family.                       

 -  Over the past decade, the percent of households headed  
by a single parent and percent of households that do not    
include a family have increased substantially.              

The Look of Families is Changing                            

Over the past decade in Michigan:                           

 -  Married couples with children have decreased.           

 -  Single-parent families with children have increased     
from less than 20 percent of all families with children to  
nearly 26 percent. This is the fastest growing type of      

 -  Nearly three in five households contain no children     
under 18.                                                   

 -  The percentage of childfree couples (married couples    
not living with under 18) has risen slightly and will       
continue to rise as more couple choose not to have          

 -  The trends of delaying or forgoing marriage, coupled    
with the aging of America, have also resulted in a          
dramatic rise in single-person and partnered households.    

How Families are Changing in the '90s                       

 -  People are marrying later and having fewer children.    
Likewise many women are having children later in their      
reproductive years. The median age of marriage has risen    
about 2 years for both brides and grooms to age 24 for      
women and age 25.5 for men in 1990. Though the birth rate   
is expected to decline for Michigan women, the number of    
births is increasing as the "baby boom" generation moves    
through the child-bearing years.                            

 -  Nearly two out of three children will live in a         
single-parent family before reaching the age of 18. These   
children are more likely to live in poverty, have trouble   
in school, and have health problems.                        

 -  Births to single women continue to increase as a        
percentage of all births. This is not just a trend of       
teen-age mothers, but increasingly of adult women.          
Approximately one in every four births is to a single       

 -  "Boomerang kids" are common. These are young adults     
who have left home, only to return because of a job loss,   
divorce, or other economic problems. Of these, many move    
in and out with parents several times before permanently    
moving into their own homes.                                

 -  In 1992, Michigan ranks low, relative to other states,  
on indicators of children's well-being, such as percentage  
of low-birthweight babies, percentage of young people       
graduating from high school, and percentage of children in  

Increasing Ethnic Diversity Among Young People              

As discussed in Section Four, Michigan's minority           
population has increased substantially. Family patterns     
differ among race and ethnic groups.                        

 -  Minority families tend to be younger and are more       
likely to have dependent children. Twenty-two percent of    
Michigan's children are from ethnically diverse             

 -  Minority men and women are less likely to marry.        

 -  In Michigan, African-Americans have the highest         
divorce rate and Asian/Pacific Islanders have the lowest    
divorce rate among all race and ethnic groups.              

 -  More than twice as many Black children as White         
children live in households headed by a relative other      
than their parent.                                          

Employment of Adults Outside the Home                       

More mothers are in the workforce. Over half of all         
mothers with children under age 6 now work to support       
their families, and three-quarters of mothers with          
children ages 6 to 17 are working outside the home. More    
women working increases the demand for child care outside   
the home.                                                   

Other factors that have made a major change in families     
are the rise in work hours and commuting time, and the      
decline in days off. Americans are spending 158 hours more  
each year (or an extra month) at work than they did in      
1969, and so parents and children are spending less time    
together at home today than in the past.                    

Economic Shifts for Children and Youths                     

The child poverty rates in Michigan in the 1980s were       
higher than for any year from 1966 to 1980. In addition,    
about 40 percent of all poor children were in families      
with incomes in the lower half of the poverty level.        

Family Lifestyles and Values                                

 -  Social, economic, and technological changes since the   
late 1940s have fragmented community life. The results      
are breaks in the naturally occurring networks and          
linkages between individuals, families, schools and other   
community systems that traditionally provided the social    
supports and opportunities for participation and            
involvement necessary for healthy human development. The    
gap between the "haves" and the "have nots" is growing      
with the shrinking of the middle class/                     

 -  Expanding the safety net for children through           
collaborative community efforts is recommended repeatedly   
to improve the present status and future well-being of      
children, youths and their families.                        

 -  Many observers see Americans returning to a "simple     
life" embracing home and family in the next decade. In a    
1991 TIME/CNN poll, nine out of 10 people said it was       
"more important today to spend time with their families";   
seven in 10 would like to "slow down and live a more        
relaxed life"' and six in 10 agreed that "earning a living  
today requires so much effort that it's difficult to find   
time to enjoy life." Experts believe that this shift to     
family-centered values started with the stock market crash  
of 1987 and was cemented by the nation's 1990-92 recession  
and the Persian Gulf War.                                   

Michigan Children and Their Families                        

In Michigan, there are 2.5 million children and youths      
under the age 18 years. Youth make up 26 percent of the     
1990 state population, down from 38 percent in 1960. One    
reason for the declining number of children is that women   
are having fewer children.                                  

 -  The proportion of children is expected to continue to   
decline, as the number of women in the prime child-bearing  
years drops over the next two decades.                      

 -  Studies show that families headed by single- or         
dual-career parents tend to have fewer children than those  
that are not.                                               

 -  About two-thirds of all children under 6 years old      
have working mothers.                                       

 -  In 1990, 7 of 10 children were in families headed by a  
married couple. This is a significant decrease since 1970   
when nearly 9 of 10 children were in families with two      

 -  Less than a third of two- parent families include both  
birth parents, however, so step- or blended families are    
now the norm in America.                                    

 -  Younger children and Black and Hispanic children are    
less likely to live in families headed by a married         
couple. For example, only a third of Black preschoolers     
live in a married couple family and 61 percent live with a  
single mother.                                              

 -  According to the U.S. Census, one child in five is      
poor. Almost half of all single-mother families with        
children under 18 live in poverty.                          

 -  Currently, about 10 percent of all families with        
children are headed by single parents. Single parents       
have the least time, money and social support available to  
manage child care and other family responsibilities. They   
also have the most problems effectively juggling care with  

Characteristics of Elderly Families                         

 -  Most elderly families live independently in the         
community despite physical frailty.                         

 -  Most elderly families are in touch with their families  
by telephone or actual visits at least weekly.              

 -  Older adults are most frequently supported by family    
and friends. Secondly, Cooperative Extension, public        
health departments, and the aging network (senior centers   
and other services of the Older Americans Act) are broadly  
used but increasingly have inadequate funding to meet the   
need. New county-level structures to create synergism       
among all elements of the support system must be created.   

 -  Less than half of the elderly poor population in 1990   
received any means-tested assistance from the federal       
government. That is, they did not receive Medicaid, food    
stamps or supplemental income, or live in subsidized        
housing. This excludes Medicare and Social Security,        
which are not means-tested.                                 

 -  Many older adults are reluctant to use government or    
community services. Better linkages are needed between      
community service providers and professionals such as       
physicians who interact with older adults.                  

 -  Frequently, frail older families are thrown into        
crisis by a health problem such as cognitive impairment or  
hospitalization or a health-related problem such as loss    
of a driver's license. The most effective mechanism for     
dealing with such a problem is a geriatric assessment       
center or a care management program. These are not always   
available throughout Michigan, nor widely recognized as a   
resource when they exist. Short- and long-term crisis       
management is needed.                                       

Changes in Child and Elder Care                             

Changing family patterns, including a dramatic rise in      
dual-career, single-parent, blended and sandwiches          
families - those with both children and elders to care for  
- have altered the workplace and the home. Yet state,       
local and federal public policy, and private employers,     
have generally lagged in adapting to changing demographics  
and social trends. Many programs targeting family issues    
are still more appropriately designed for the traditional   
American family of the 1950s with two parents, including a  
stay-at-home female spouse, and two children.               

 -  The aging of the baby boomers over the next decade      
will result in workers having growing family                
responsibilities for both children and elderly dependents.  

Women in the Labor Force                                    

 -  Though 85 percent of all new entrants to the workforce  
are female or minority, and more fathers are taking a more  
active role in parenting, women still consistently spend    
more time on child care than men. Research shows that       
when both parents in families with young children work,     
employed mothers decrease their time spent on household     
chores rather than child care.                              

 -  Working mothers are absent from work more often than    
working fathers. Overall, research shows that female        
employees tend to have a greater preoccupation with family  
matters and experience mor interrole conflict and overload  
than male employees.                                        

 -  Research also shows that having children impedes the    
career advancement of women because of career               
interruptions, temporary departure from the labor force or  
lowered job responsibilities, sometimes the result of       
choosing a "mommy track" and sometimes because of           
supervisory beliefs that mothers have decreased             
commitment to the  workplace.                               

Child Care                                                  

 -  Research shows that employed women still perform the    
majority of child care tasks and are more likely than       
employed men to be concerned about and directly involved    
in child care arrangements.                                 

 -  Families with access to a family member for assistance  
with child care for at least part of the week have better   
attitudes toward work and fewer child care problems than    
those that do not.                                          

 -  Working parents do not necessarily make one             
arrangement per child and plans are varied and often        

 -  The growth in child care outside the home is a          
relatively recent trend in the United States. For           
example, one study shows that as late as 1979, over 90      
percent of working parents with children under 13 years of  
age arranged for child care in the home by a relative or a  
non-relative, or in a relative or non-relative's home.      

 -  Most parents prefer to have child care in their         

 -  Working mothers tend to prefer parental leaves,         
part-time work and flexible work schedules as forms of      
employer assistance with child care.                        

 -  Only 12 percent of U.S. firms with at least 100         
employee provide any form of dependent care benefits.       

Elder Care                                                  

 -  The U.S. Special Senate Committee on Aging predicts     
that by the year 2010, there will be 22 elderly persons     
per 100 persons of working age, and that the figure will    
increase to 38 elderly per 100 working age persons by the   
year 2050.                                                  

-  Currently 22 percent of people over age 85 are in        
nursing homes. For every nursing home inhabitant, there     
are at least two others with equivalent disabilities that   
are not institutionalized.                                  

 -  Eighty percent of non-institutional care is provided    
by family members, who can suffer emotional, physical and   
financial strain as a result. Nearly a third of all         
persons caring for elderly people are employed outside the  
home, a figure that is expected to grow rapidly. Research   
shows that employment status is unrelated to the overall    
amount of help provided to elderly persons, particularly    
if the employee/caregiver is female.                        

 -  A key difference between child care and elder care is   
that the bulk of elder care tends to be informal, such as   
helping with personal and household tasks. These are        
generally done daily by women, regardless of whether the    
elder is a parent or an in-law. Men help more with such     
elder care responsibilities as transportation and           
financial management and home repairs, which are done more  

Public Policy Implications                                  

 -  Because the federal government has not jumped to deal   
with the child and elder care concerns - i.e., the          
problems of cost, quality and supply - many employers and   
state and local governments will sponsor more initiatives   
to help families. Decreasing public monies available for    
new initiatives and recessionary times, however, will make  
it increasingly difficult for local governments and         
Michigan businesses to do so.                               

 -  Research shows that children whose parents are more     
involved in their education have higher achievement,        
suggesting that policies that are designed to enable        
greater parental involvement with children may be           
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