American Family by the Numbers

Changing demographics paint a dark picture

Pope Francis will hold a prayer vigil Saturday evening at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia before returning to Rome on Sunday.

This year’s gathering of Catholics from around the globe, whose activities include a youth and adult congress and a film festival, is titled, “Love is Our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.”

In comments delivered Wednesday morning on the South Lawn of the White House, the pope said he was attending the meeting of families “to celebrate and support the institutions of marriage and the family at this critical moment in the history of our civilization.”

The collective American family Francis will encounter is one where marriage has radically changed, same-sex marriage is the now federal law, and people are waiting longer to marry.

The pope will be greeting kids who are being raised in a changing familial landscape, where single parents, older parents and gay parents make up more of American society. It is a nation of families that today need more government assistance, and that consists of many immigrant families. It’s an America of faith that still identifies as religious, but whose church attendance is slowing down, and whose Muslim population is growing precipitously.

Here is a snapshot of today’s American family:

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  • More than half of America’s adults are single, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Those who do marry are waiting longer. The median age for women to get married is 25.1 years. For men, it’s 26.8 years, according to the Census Bureau.
  • Marriage rates have declined steadily since the 1980s, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. This year’s marriage rate is 6.74 per 1,000 people.
  • There are an estimated 252,000 married same-sex couples in the United States , out of 56 million total married couples, according to the Census Bureau.
  • Divorce rates today hover around 44 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


  • Women may be waiting longer to marry, but that doesn’t mean they are waiting longer to have kids. About 4 out 10 children are now born to unwed mothers, Child Trends reported.
  • Americans are also waiting longer to have children. A government study by NCHS found that 2013 had only 62.5 births for every 1,000 women of child-bearing years, compared to almost double that number, at 120 births, in the 1960s.
  • More kids are now being raised by gay parents. According to the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, more than 111,000 same-sex couples are raising an estimated 170,000 biological, step, or adopted children.


  • According to the Census Bureau, median household income is $52,250, holding steady from a year ago, but down 2.28 percent from three years ago.
  • Additionally, the Census Bureau says the number of children receiving food stamps, 1 in every 5, remains higher than it was before the start of the Great Recession in 2007, when it was 1 in 9.
  • A 2015 study by the University of California, Berkeley found that states and the federal government spent $152.8 billion a year on food stamps, health insurance, and cash assistance programs, more than half of it going to working families who were having trouble making ends meet.
  • Fifty-one percent of households headed by a legal immigrant are on some form of welfare, according to the Center for Immigration Statistics. Immigrants make up 13 percent of U.S. population.
  • Some 8.5 million Americans still don’t have jobs, and 40 percent have given up looking for employment, according to CNBC.

Spiritual life

  • Church attendance is down in U.S. Roughly 3 in 10 U.S. adults say they seldom or never attend worship services, according to Pew Research, although 83 percent of Americans identify as Christian, according to an ABCNews/Beliefnet poll.
  • There are about 5.3 million Jews in the U.S., and approximately 3.8 million Buddhists, according to Pew Research.
  • The fastest growing faith in the U.S is Islam. Pew Research estimates the population of U.S. Muslims will more than double during the next two decades, from 2.6 million in 2010 to 6.2 million in 2030.
  • Nine hundred new Islamic centers have been established since 2000, according to the Center on American-Islamic Relations. There are 2,106 mosques in the United States, with New York state and California having more than 500 mosques.

Francis will be offering prayers for families while he is here. Do we need them?

“Many families are doing well, but far too many are not. The state of the American family suffers because we want the benefits of strong families while rejecting the value of self-sacrifice that makes anything worth having possible,” Joseph Backholm, executive director of the Family Policy Institute of Washington, told LifeZette.

“From the still too high divorce rate, to catastrophically high out-of-wedlock birthrates, to the redefinition of marriage, we are building policy and making decisions around the idea that the most important thing in the universe is my personal happiness,” he said. “This not only leads to weaker family units, but also to less happiness for individuals as well. It will always be true that the more we try to please ourselves the less satisfied we will be.”

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