The lone american grows in number

'Traditional' family is changing, Census 2000 shows

Is America becoming a country of loners? In 1940, less than 8 percent of all Americans lived alone. Today, almost 26 percent — 27,230,075 Americans — live by themselves according to results from Census 2000.

No matter how you read them, Census 2000 figures released this week reflect significant changes in the makeup of the "average" American family.

For the first time in America's history, fewer than 25 percent of all American households are made up of married couples with children.

The traditional American family — two parents and one or more children under 18 — now represents only 23.5 percent of all American households, down from 25.6 percent in 1990 and 45 percent in 1960. Families headed by married couples fell to 52 percent of all households in 2000 from 55 percent in 1990.

Families maintained by women with no husband present increased three times as fast as married-couple families 21 percent versus 7 percent.

Increasing by some 72 percent since 1990, the number of unmarried persons living together as couples jumped to 5.47 million in 2000 from 3.19 million in 1990.

Further reflecting the continuous redefinition of the 'traditional' American family, the average household size — the average total number of persons living in each dwelling in the U.S. — dropped to a record low of 2.59 people, down from 2.63 in 1990.

Census Bureau analysts say several factors are contributing to the change in the traditional nuclear family, such as couples waiting longer to have children, a growing number of single parent families and a constantly increasing divorce rate.

While women still outnumber men in America by 143,368,343 to 138,053,563, the number of men for every 100 women increased to 96.3 in 2000 from 95.1 in 1990. A phenomenon Census Bureau demographers attribute to the fact that the average life expectancy of men has increased, closing the long existing life expectancy gap between men and women.