Skip to site content

Single-Parent Families Increase Worldwide

Around the world, the number of one-parent families is on the rise.

World trends are similar to those in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />United States, where the number of single-parent families is growing while the number of nuclear families declines. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
The 2000 U.S. Census Bureau reported that 24.8 million, or nearly 24 percent of the nation’s 105.5 million households, were the traditional “Ozzie and Harriet” families. Almost 9.8 million households, 9 percent, were headed by a man or woman raising a child alone.
 
In 1990, 26 percent of homes were led by a married mother and father, and 8 percent by a single parent.
 
Single-parent families have been increasing in Britain over the last decade, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international think tank. Lone-parent families increased there from 3.3 percent of all households in 1990 to 5.5 percent in 1999.
 
Single-parent households in Australia rose from 5.8 percent in 1990 to 7.6 percent in 1999, according to Associated Press. Among other countries with large increases were Belgium with 1.8 percent of households in 1990 to 2.7 percent in 1999, Ireland (1.8 percent to 2.8 percent) and Luxembourg (1.3 percent to 2.2 percent).
 
Households led by a single parent increased in Japan from 5.1 percent in 1990 to just 5.2 percent in 1999, according to AP. Rates were relatively unchanged in Italy, Greece and Portugal.
 
In the past three decades the rates of divorce, single parenting and cohabitation in America have risen sharply, according to Salon.com.
 
Single parents, mostly women worldwide, are the fastest-growing group of people with children, according to Salon.com. During the 1990s, the number of single-parent families in the United States grew five times faster than the number of married couples with children.
 
The number of families headed by single fathers, while still low, doubled from 1 percent of all households in 1990 to 2 percent in 2001.
 
Alex Smirnov is BCE’s research associate.