Number of People in a Family

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Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Standardized
Result
Households,1 Families, and Married Couples, 1890-2002. InfoPlease. 2006. [see table below] 3.21
(USA 2002)
America's Homes Get Bigger and Better. ABC News. 27 December 2005. "Today's average family size is 2.6 people." 2.6
(USA 2005)
Factsheet: Six Billion and Beyond … Why World Population Is Still Growing. Population Action International. 2005. "Worldwide, average family size is currently just under three children." >3.0
(World 2005)
2004 American Community Survey Data Profile Highlights. US Census Bureau.
2004 General American Community Survey
General Characteristics Number
Average family Size 3.18
3.18
(USA 2004)
Table AVG2. Average Number of People per Family Household, by Race and Hispanic Origin/1/, Marital Status, Age, and Education of Householder: March 2002 [xls]. US Census. 2002.
Table AVG2. Average Number of People per Family Household ….
General Characteristic Number
All 3.15
3.15
(USA 2002)

Twentieth Century American television tried to paint an image of the perfect wholesome American family. Sitcoms portraying the average American family was composed of a working father, a homely mother and the "ideal" number of children, 2.4. In today's America, a new portrait of the average American family must be created and with fewer characters.

It seems the American family has gotten smaller over the last century. Today the average number of children is 3.18 while the average in 1940 was 3.76. There are many changes in American society that might have contributed to this decrease. For example there has been a reduction in the number of children born per woman. In the early Twentieth Century, it was not uncommon to see a woman with five or more children. Since then different methods of birth control have been created and there has been widespread use of contraceptives. Women are also choosing to have children later in their childbearing years, making it more difficult to have large families. This may be due to their participation in the workforce. Women are no longer traditional homemakers; instead they find time for their independent careers.

The decrease in the number of children per woman is not the only factor responsible for the smaller American family. Another factor that must be considered is the change in family structure. There is a higher percentage of children living in a mother-only household. Between 1960 and 1999 the percentage escalated from 8% to 27%.

In industrialized countries all around the world the average family size has fallen significantly. In China the average family size decreased from 4.81 in 1973 to 3.38 in 20031. The dramatic drop is due to the enforcement of the "One Child Policy" implemented to conserve Chinese resources and prevent overpopulation. In Canada the average family size was 3.7 in 1973 and 3.0 in 20012. The average family size for each of these countries seems to dwell around 3 people. With social and economic success the focal point of life in an industrialized country, couples are choosing to have relatively small families. Children today can prove to be a financial burden on some families especially when it comes to educating them.

Developing countries no longer have a big demand for large families. With advancements in child birth there is no need to have "extra children" for fear of child mortality. Many regions of the world where women are expected to have as many as 6 children in her lifetime are being educated in family planning to reduce their population. This way the countries' resources would be sufficient for its population.

  All households Families Married couples
Date Number Average
population
per household
Number Average
population
per family
Number
June 1890 12,690,000 4.93 - - -
April 1930 29,905,000 4.11 - - 25,174,000
April 1940 34,949,000 3.67 32,166,000 3.76 26,571,000
March 1950 43,554,000 3.37 39,303,000 3.54 34,075,000
April 1955 47,874,000 3.33 41,951,000 3.59 36,251,000
March 19602 52,799,000 3.35 45,111,000 3.67 39,254,000
March 1965 57,436,000 3.32 47,956,000 3.70 41,689,000
March 1970 63,401,000 3.14 51,586,000 3.58 44,728,000
March 1975 71,120,000 2.94 55,712,000 3.42 46,951,000
March 1980 80,776,000 2.76 59,550,000 3.29 49,112,000
March 1985 86,789,000 2.69 62,706,000 3.23 50,350,000
March 1990 93,347,000 2.63 66,090,000 3.17 52,317,000
March 1995 98,990,000 2.65 69,305,000 3.19 53,858,000
March 1996 99,627,000 2.65 69,594,000 3.20 53,567,000
Dec. 1997 101,018,000 2.64 70,241,000 3.19 53,604,000
March 1998 102,528,000 2.62 70,880,000 3.18 54,317,000
March 1999 103,874,000 2.61 71,535,000 3.18 55,849,000
March 2000 104,705,000 2.62 72,025,000 3.17 56,497,000
March 2002 109,297,000 2.58 74,329 3.21 56,747,000
  1. A person or group of persons that live in a housing unit.
  2. First year in which figures for Alaska and Hawaii were included.
  1. Population, Ministry of Commerce of P.R. China
  2. Families: A Canadian ProfileCanadian Council on Social Development

Stacey Johnson -- 2006


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