Demographic Rates and Household Change in the United States, 1900-2000

Gretchen Stockmayer, University of California, Berkeley

Over the twentieth century, fewer people in the United States resided with kin and more lived alone, with a spouse, or with only their own children. Over the same period, mortality decreased, fertility fell, rose and fell again, and more marriages were postponed, forgone, or ended by divorce. This paper combines techniques of decomposition and microsimulation to determine how much household change in the United States over the twentieth century was caused by fertility, mortality, or marriage and divorce changes. The analysis indicates that most of the household change in the first half of the century was demographic in nature, stemming from decreasing fertility. After 1950, mortality change played a large role in the rise of the married couple household, as years that either were not afforded to the elderly of the past, or were spent in widowhood, became an extended second honeymoon for many couples.

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Presented in Session 167: The Family in Historical Perspective