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US has the highest rate of single-parent households, study finds, foreshadowing grim prospects


Parents matter, a lot

F. Scott Schafer/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

A recent study from Pew Research Center revealed that the United States has the highest rate of children living in single-parent households in the world.

The study, which analyzed 130 countries around the world based on the criterion of the number of children living with one parent and no other adults, found that the U.S. had the highest share of single-parent households at 23 percent.

Pew's report on the study stated:

Almost a quarter of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults (23%), more than three times the share of children around the world who do so (7%). The study, which analyzed how people's living arrangements differ by religion, also found that U.S. children from Christian and religiously unaffiliated families are about equally likely to live in this type of arrangement.

In comparison, 3% of children in China, 4% of children in Nigeria and 5% of children in India live in single-parent households. In neighboring Canada, the share is 15%.

Though the runner-ups are also Western nations with higher-than-average rates — such as Denmark (17 percent), France (16 percent), and Ireland (14 percent) — the U.S. has a significantly higher margin of single-parent households than all of the other nations, outside of the United Kingdom. (21 percent).

U.S. children are more likely than children elsewhere to live in single-parent homes

Pew said the results are due in part to "a decline in marriage rates and a rise in births outside of marriage" in the U.S.

A similar study Pew conducted last year found that one-third of all U.S. children are living with an unmarried parent, a figure that has nearly tripled since 1968 rising from 13 percent to 32 percent. (The data included unmarried "cohabiting" parents, which accounted for the 32 percent figure.)

The Washington Free Beacon suggested the study's results are in direct correlation to the Western world's move away from traditional family structures, citing the steady decline of two-parent homes in the U.S.

"America's top spot has been a long time coming," the Free Beacon report added. "Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows in 1960, just 9 percent of U.S. children lived with one parent."

In 60 years, that number has nearly tripled, as well.

What does this mean?

Though many still debate the notion, several studies have shown that family structure is an important factor in a child's future success, if not the most important predictor.

"The single strongest predictor of a child's economic fortunes is the fraction of single parents in the area where she grew up," The Atlantic reported on a Harvard social mobility study.

In that study, researchers concluded that "the fraction of children living in single-parent households is the strongest correlate of upward income mobility among all the variables explored."

Family structure does not just predict economic success, either. Research by Sarah McLanahan at Princeton University and Bruce Ellis at the University of Arizona also found that boys raised by single mothers are significantly more likely to end up in jail and girls raised without a father are more likely to end up pregnant in their teenage years.

(H/T: Washington Free Beacon)

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