Diversity is the new normal

I have new briefing paper out today with the Council on Contemporary Families, titled “Family Diversity is the New Normal for America’s Children.” I’ll post news links soon. In the meantime:

I’m happy to provide high quality graphics.

Let me know what you think!

Reports and commentary:

13 thoughts on “Diversity is the new normal

  1. This is terrific! I’m wondering about a category that isn’t included in your chart about women ages 30-34. It’s not married, with a BA, employed, with kids. Is that category just so small that it’s not reportable?


  2. Professor Cohen, If my previous comment was too snarky, let me rephrase ( I wish you can add more Marxist perspective to your demopgraphic models):

    1. The population, which was overwhelmingly white and which followed a traditional structure in 1960, has become more varied; the impact on the family structure due to the change in racial structure is significant. The Black and Hispanic families from some 33% of the present day population, have become significantly diverse in family structure. The racial contribution of family structural differences was identified as early as in 1964.

    2. The breakdown in family structure is driven by a growing inequality; with the poor being not able afford to form traditional families; they aspire to choose a traditional family model, but not financially able to do so.

    3. Economics, in particular, globalization and outsourcing of jobs, has led to a long economic tail, and it is a principal culprit in this inability to afford family structure.

    4. Unchecked immigration has contributed, both directly (job displacement) and indirectly (poorer immigrants choosing to mimic the family structure of poorer segments of the population) to a breakdown of traditional family structure.

    5. In contrast, the winners of economic wars have chosen to mimic traditional family models; see the marriage rates of highly educated, and the battles for gay marriage. If the intact family is not a model to emulate, why gay marriage?

    6. The process is non-linear; with more members added to non-traditional family models growing poorer; and having no choice but choose the broken family model; and becoming still poorer. In contrast, people who stay with stable family models have grown richer, but smaller in numbers. This accentuates inequality. Both, Immigration and capitalism are drivers of this non-linear cycle.


    1. Vijay;

      “with the poor being not able afford to form traditional families; they aspire to choose a traditional family model, but not financially able to do so.”

      If poverty were the reason that people were unable to form traditional familes, we would have seen single-parent/broken families skyrocket during the Great Depression. They did not. Another cause is at root here – that is of a change in personal values.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Correct; but the social mores and economics have changed considerably since the great depression.

        During the great depression years, the man was considered to be the sole source of income, an the family had to follow him whatever be his economic status. Social security, medicaid and TANF has made this less necessary.


  3. Phil,
    This isn’t directly related since you’re talking about the diversity of family structures, but it is slightly related because it deals with interracial families.

    What do you think of this blog post: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/i-was-taking-pictures-of-my-daughters-but-a-stranger-thought-i-was-exploiting-them/2014/08/29/34831bb8-2c6c-11e4-994d-202962a9150c_story.html

    On one hand, I very much understand why the author was upset and the intrusion he and his daughters felt; on the other, human trafficking is a very real issue, and approaching the women themselves to make sure they are ok seems like a good approach. If it’s the wrong approach, what’s a better solution? I don’t think “mind your own business” is a good alternative.


    1. Thanks, I did see that and was also a little conflicted. In the end I think the person who intervened was off base because what trafficker would take pictures like that in public in front of many strangers? Seems odd. However, that incident does resonate with this larger point about family diversity because when there are so many family roles it’s harder to use the circumstantial cues to figure out what’s going on.

      For interpersonal interactions, this requires kindness and openness on all sides. For example, in 1960 if a person saw a Black woman playing with White children in a city park, it was pretty safe assuming she was their babysitter. Now one would have to recognize that it’s uncertain – and both strangers have to find a way to interact without creating unnecessary offense or conflict.


      1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I think that your point re: approaching interactions with kindness and openness is spot on, particularly with, as you note, the increasing diversity of family structures, roles, etc.

        Though, I do think that traffickers could take pictures in public since not all instances of trafficking are the ones where women and/or children are locked and “kept under key” so to speak. I’m not an expert in trafficking but in my understanding, many women are tricked into being trafficked – promised one thing, confronted with the reality of something else (for example, the promise of a domestic job in a city and having the trafficker “lend” money for the woman to go for this other job, but then realizing once that person arrives, it is sex-based work and they have to work off the debt). Additionally, much of trafficking could involve psychological and physical abuse (in places where bruises are not visible) that keep women in those situations. A parallel would be a domestic violence situation – an abusive husband could presumably take ‘happy’ pictures of his wife on a cruise ship while still abusing her in the privacy of their own home. Similarly, a trafficker could provide incentives, e.g. in the form of a cruise, for women they are trafficking. Again, I don’t know the empirics but these are some of the circumstances that came to mind.


        1. Fair enough. But as I look at the pictures, it’s hard to believe someone could think that. Really the only thing you have to base your suspicion on is the race difference between the father and the daughters. That’s a very low standard of evidence for deciding to intervene in such a serious way.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. I doubt there ever was a ‘typical family’. I note that that has been no mention of adoption and baby trafficking which surely are important elements in the changes in family structure. I understand there are around 1 million adoptees in America these days, surely a group to study?


    1. It is important not to exaggerate conformity in the past. I don’t want to go beyond the categories I use here – with regard to these categories there clearly was a typical family in 1960. There were of course other differences below the surface, and adoption is one of them. There used to be more adoption than there is now, because single motherhood and abortion were not realistic options for most people, but adoption was discussed less (and not counted by Census at that time). Adoption now is less common but more visible. Baby trafficking may be a problem now but if so it is very rare in the US, demographically.


      1. “Adoption now is less common but more visible. ”

        UNTRUE. I provide data from NVSS for child births and from two references for adoption by year. The references are:

        1. Maza, P.L. (1984). Adoption trends: 1944-1975. Child Welfare Research Notes #9.

        2. Flango, V. and Flango, C. (1994). The flow of adoption information from the from the states. Williamsburg,VA: National Center for State Courts.


        1950 3,632,000
        19523 3,913,000
        19533 3,965,000
        19543 4,078,000
        1955 4,104,000
        19563 4,218,000
        19573 4,308,000
        19583 4,255,000
        19593 4,295,000
        19603 4,257,850
        19613 4,268,326
        19623 4,167,362
        19633 4,098,020
        19643 4,027,490
        19653 3,760,358
        19663 3,606,274
        19674 3,520,959
        19683 3,501,564
        19693 3,600,206
        19703 3,731,386
        19713 3,555,970
        1972 3,258,411
        1973 3,136,965
        1974 3,159,958
        1975 3,144,198
        1976 3,167,788
        1977 3,326,632
        1978 3,333,279
        1979 3,494,398
        1980 3,612,258
        1982 3,680,537
        1983 3,638,933
        1984 3,669,141
        1985 3,760,561
        1986 3,731,000
        1987 3,829,000
        1988 3,913,000
        1989 4,021,000
        1990 4,179,000
        1991 4,111,000
        1992 4,084,000
        1993 4,039,000
        1994 3,979,000
        1995 3,892,000
        1996 3,899,000
        1997 3,882,000
        1998 3,941,553
        1999 3,959,417
        2000 4,058,814
        2001 4,025,933
        2002 4,021,726
        2003 4,089,950
        2004 4,112,052
        2005 4,138,349
        2009 4,131,019


        Year Number of States Reporting Reported Total Estimated Total
        1944 22 16,000 50,000
        1951 33 36,732 72,000
        1955 39 54,589 93,000
        1957 46 71,934 91,000
        1958 47 76,095 96,000
        1957 46 71,934 91,000
        1958 47 76,095 96,000
        1959 47 82,537 102,000
        1960 50 95,682 107,000
        1961 52 108,733 114,000
        1962 52 117,662 121,000
        1963 50 122,944 127,000
        1964 52 133,106 135,000
        1965 51 139,222 142,000
        1966 51 148,995 152,000
        1967 51 154,166 158,000
        1968 48 155,734 166,000
        1969 49 161,295 171,000
        1970 49 163,231 175,000
        1971 50 159,844 169,000
        1972 37 99,552 153,000
        1973 41 112,849 148,000
        1974 41 107,874 138,000
        1975 40 104,188 129,000
        1992 127441
        1993 123222
        1994 122500
        1995 121600
        1996 124393
        1997 126000
        1998 125600
        1999 128560
        2000 129000

        The reason why adoption has stagnated because it has witched from a “Related Persons” Mode to a More Bureacratic State Court System/Social services mode. With the state court system as the driver, adoptions have become goals that are targets to be attained, and not based on needs. Today, there is a waiting list of 10 years for adoptions in most states.


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