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The American Household--Implications for Your Employees & Customers

By: Mauricio Velásquez
President, Diversity Training Group

The Census Bureau recently released their report entitled “Families and Living Arrangements,” describing the American Household. As you read below, see if the data challenges everything you believe as true about the American family in the United States today. The organizations that acknowledge the changes (it is what it is) and understand these implications for their workplace (your employees) and marketplace (your customers) will surely have an edge on their competition in an increasingly competitive business climate. Let’s take a look at the data and compare and contrast the data of 2003 with that of 1995.


Families headed by married couple78%68%
People per household2.652.57
Households made up of married couples with children25%32%
Households made up of married couples with no children30.3%28%
Households made up of five or more people10.4%9.8%
Households made up of people living alone25%26%
Families headed by female householder12.2 million13.6 million
Families headed by male householder3.2 million4.6 million



bulletProportion of people living alone has plateaued (has risen rapidly since 1970) with solos only 9% of 1950 population. 
bulletSteady decrease in family size over recent decades has slowed. 
bulletMassive baby boom generation is aging. 
bulletReversal in the rate of babies born to unmarried mothers (recently reported by the National Center for Health Statistics) - rate declined for the first time in nearly 20 years, fallen 4% since 1994. 
bullet68% or a vast majority of American families are still headed by married couples 
bulletWhile married-couples families grew by 17% since 1995, for example, the number of female-headed families increased by 1.4 million. 
bulletIn 1940, 90% of households were “families” (defined by Census Bureau as two or more people living together who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption) 
bulletBut by 1970, the figure had fallen to 81%, and by 1995, it was down to 70%, although the rate of decline has slowed in recent years 
bulletIncrease in so-called non-family households is explained by the rise in people living alone - more than half of these “home alone” (60%) are women and most of those are elderly

The “typical family” is a myth or an illusion. If you don’t acknowledge the powerful demographic trends at play in the workplace or marketplace, your “assumptions” will not serve you well. The decline of the traditional two-parent family appears likely to continue, a trend that has social, moral, marketing, and financial implications.

If you are in human resources and you are trying to create a more inclusive work environment, one that is more productive and motivating for your employees, you must study these demographic changes. Understanding these implications for your hiring and retention of talent efforts is paramount to the long-term success of your organization.

If you are in marketing and sales, does this data present any questions or concerns for the way you conduct business? Take a look at your ongoing “status quo” marketing and sales initiatives? The “traditional family” cannot be reached with “traditional marketing” because the traditional family does not exist. Your “hit or miss” marketing and advertising efforts are missing.