It goes without saying that we no longer live in the time of the Huxtables (much less the Cleavers). But what makes families today different from how they used to be?
We decided to investigate. Using facts from census data and recent studies on child-rearing, work and marriage, we've narrowed down seven qualities that characterize the new American family.
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1. Longer Marriages
In the 1950s, few women attended college and the average marriage age was 20. Today, women make up 58 percent of the students on our nation's college campuses and, on average, wait until they're 26 to walk down the aisle. What does this mean? That they can plan on being married a very long time. According to a study by Betsey Stevenson at the Wharton School of Economics, only 19 percent of college-educated couples who tied the knot after the age of 25 divorced by the time they reached their 25th wedding anniversary.
2. Happier Parents
According to the Pew Research Center, in 1990 teens had more kids than women over 35 (13 percent and 9 percent respectively). But in 2008, the reverse was true—10 percent of births were to teens, compared with 14 percent to women 35 and older. At the same time, mothers in recent years have been more educated (54 percent attended some college, compared to 41 percent in 1990). And, birth rates have been declining—in 1960 families had, on average, 3.6 children; in 2008 the average family had 2.1 kids.
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Correlating with all of this (or resulting from it, if you're feeling optimistic), the vast majority of children are now born to parents who want and are ready for them—87 percent of parents now say they had their first child for "the joy" of it. The New Family Man And Why You Should Date Him
3. More DIY Families
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage—at least, that's what our grandparents told us. But things have changed a lot since our grandparents' time. Cases in point: