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Changing Family Patterns

chapter 6


In the spirit of the early settlers and pioneers, Americans claim mobility as their birthright. The original colonies were not long established before expansion began for more farming land. The frontier was the next piece of unexplored land to the west, and successive generations of Americans worked their way across the continent to the Pacific Ocean. After the Civil War, many freed slaves migrated to the North in search of jobs. In the twentieth century, southern cities attracted new industries which led to a new migration of jobseekers, as well as retirees seeking warmer climates.

Migration to Suburbs Continues

The economic prosperity following World War II enabled many American families to pursue what was perceived to be a better life in the wide-open spaces of the outlying, newly developing suburbs. The ties that bound the nuclear family, the extended family, and the ethnic neighborhood—all of which existed before the war—were loosened. With government aid, most notably Veterans'Administration (VA) mortgages, newlyweds and young couples with children bought homes in the suburbs. Leaving their parents and relatives, these young families soon became self-sufficient entities tending to their own needs. By 1960, suburban residents for the first time outnumbered those living in cities.

Additionally, in 1956 the federal government enacted the National Defense Highway Act, which provided for the construction of more than forty thousand miles of interstate highway. This expansion of the nation's highway system, coupled with low gas prices, facilitated the suburbanization of America. By 1960, the Census Bureau reported that 75% of families in the United States owned a car, compared with about 50% in the late 1940s. Many businesses also left cities to move to the suburbs. It did not take long for shopping and entertainment centers to follow.

During the 1970s and 1980s more middle-class and affluent families migrated to the suburbs, Census data showed. With the loss of many businesses and jobs to the suburbs, city dwellers began to see their quality of life diminish. Cities struggled with fewer jobs, poverty, high crime rates, and drug-related problems.

Suburban Dwellers in the Twenty-First Century

In 2002 the Census Bureau found that more than half of all households (55.5 million) were located in the suburbs. Nearly 56% (31.7 million) of married couples lived in the suburbs and another 21% (11.7 million) lived in rural areas and small towns. Regardless of where they lived, 83% of married couple families owned their homes.

New Home Construction Boom

The dream for many families is a new home, one in which they select the floor plan to meet their needs and choose everything from bathroom towel bars to light fixtures to floor coverings. Young families often bought their first new home as a completed model and looked forward to designing a future home their own way. Couples who had raised their children and were preparing for retirement will sometimes use the proceeds from the sale of the family home to build their dream house. Data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided a glimpse into new-home purchases. Of the 973,000 new homes sold in 2002 and 1,086,000 sold in 2003, just one-fourth were already completed when sold. Nearly 40% of new home buyers (361,000 in 2002 and 406,000 in 2003) selected the location for their home, participated in the design, and purchased it before construction began. (See Table 6.1.)

New homes came with sometimes staggering price tags. Of new homes sold in 2002 and 2003, just 6% were priced under $100,000, according to Census and HUD report, while 20% of new homes sold in 2002 and 24% sold in 2003 were priced in excess of $300,000. (See Table 6.2.) Reflecting a shift in population to the South and the West, those two areas claimed nearly three-quarters


New home sales by stage of construction, 2002–03
[Thousands of houses. Detail may not add to total because of rounding]
Sold during period
Period Total Not started Under construction Completed
source: Adapted from "Table 3. New Homes Sold and For Sale by Stage of Construction and Median Number of Months on Sales Market," in New Residential Sales in July 2004, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, August 25, 2004, (accessed September 24, 2004)

of all new home sales in 2002 and 2003. The South led the market with almost half of the nation's new home sales (46% in 2002 and 47% in 2003). (See Table 6.3.)

Americans on the Move

Census figures showed that between 2002 and 2003, 40.1 million Americans moved. Over half of these moves (59%) were within the same county, and 19% were to another county within in the same state. Less than one-fifth of Americans moved to a different state. (See Figure 6.1.) While overall moving rates declined from 17% in 1994 to 14% in 2003, the Census Bureau reported that long distance moves increased slightly. In 1994 just 16% of all moves crossed state boundaries compared to 19% of moves in 2003.

Moving rates varied by characteristics such as age, race, ethnicity, nativity, marital status, household type, income, ownership/rental status, and poverty. Young people in the twenty to twenty-nine age range were most mobile. Persons age sixty-five and over were least likely to move. (See Figure 6.2.) The Census Bureau reported that although they were generally less mobile than younger people, persons age fifty-five and older were more likely to move to another state. Younger people moved more frequently for jobs and to form new families; many people over fifty-five often moved to settle in a new location for retirement. Often seniors chose retirement locations near where their children had settled or opted for warmer climates and social amenities of southern retirement communities.

African-Americans and Hispanics of any race had the highest overall moving rate at 18%, while non-Hispanic whites had the lowest rate at 12%. Nearly one-third of renters moved in 2003, compared to only one in fourteen homeowners. More people in poverty (24%) moved than those with incomes above poverty level (13%). This trend may have reflected the greater likelihood that people in poverty were renters and were challenged to find adequate affordable housing. (See Table 6.4.)


More than half of all moves were done with a change of housing in mind—either to find a better home, safer neighborhood, or more affordable rental unit. These were typically moves within the same community or county. Family reasons motivated 26% of all moves—for example, a change in marital status—followed by 16% listed as job-related. People who made longer distance moves did so most often for a better job (18.6%) or family reasons (16.8%). (See Table 6.5.) People who moved to the United States from other countries did so primarily for job (38.1%) or family reasons (29.4%).

Americans continue to move out of the Northeast and the Midwest, a trend that began in the 1990s. According to the Census Bureau, between 2002 and 2003 both areas of the country experienced net population losses of about 100,000 people due to migration. Much of this loss was offset, however, by movers who came from abroad. The Northeast gained 161,000 and the Midwest gained 179,000 residents from other countries. The populations of the South and the West grew significantly from both domestic and foreign migration.

Mobile Military Families

Frequent relocations are a way of life for military families. The Department of Defense (DoD) counted


New home sales by price, 2002–03
(Thousands of houses. Components may not add to total because of rounding.)
Period Total Under $100,000 $100,000 to $124,999 $125,000 to $149,999 $150,000 to $199,999 $200,000 to $249,999 $250,000 to $299,999 $300,000 and over
*Houses for which sales price was not reported have been distributed proportionally to those for which sales price was reported.
source: Adapted from "Table 2. New Houses Sold, by Sales Price," in New Residential Sales in July 2004, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, August 25, 2004, (accessed September 24, 2004)
Number of houses*



New home sales by location, 2002–03
(Thousands of houses. Detail may not add to total because of rounding.)
Sold during period1
Period United States North–east Mid–west South west
source: Adapted from "Table 1. New Houses Sold and For Sale," in New Residential Sales in July 2004, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, August 25,2004, (accessed September 24,2004)

1,434,377 active-duty military personnel with more than two million dependents on September 30, 2003.

The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) in April 2003 operated 219 public schools in seven states, Puerto Rico, Guam, and thirteen foreign countries for children of military personnel and civilian DoD employees. Enrollment in April 2003 was approximately 102,600 children in elementary and secondary levels with the majority—71,100—in overseas schools. The frequent reassignments of military personnel resulted in a 35% transient rate in DoDEA schools.

Mobility Disconnects Extended Families

One downside to increased mobility was the scattering of families that, a generation earlier, had gathered for dinner every Sunday. "These days families are all spread out and cousins don't live around the corner anymore," said Edith Wagner, founder of Reunions magazine, in a New York Times article from August 13, 2004, about family reunions. According to the article's author, Tamar Lewin, the need to revive the sense of family connection in a mobile society made reunions popular. And the gatherings "evolved into a very different affair from a simple afternoon picnic held in the grandparents' backyard," Lewin wrote. The long distances that separate far-flung relatives prompted reunions to grow into two- or three-day


Geographic mobility by selected characteristics, 2002–03
(Numbers in thousands)
Percent moved
Total, 1 year and older Same residence (nonmovers) Different county
Selected characteristics Total movers Total Same county Same state Different state From abroad
source: Jason P. Schachter, "Table B. Geographic Mobility by Selected Characteristics, 2002–2003," in Geographical Mobility, 2002–2003, Current Population Reports, P20–549, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, March 2004,–549.pdf (accessed July 19, 2004)
Total, 1 year and older 282,556 242,463 40,093 14.2 8.3 2.7 2.7 0.5
1 to 4 years16,40912,8963,51321.413.
5 to 9 years19,70816,5843,12415.
10 to 19 years41,37235,7155,65713.
20 to 24 years19,88413,9065,97930.
25 to 29 years18,72113,4705,25228.
30 to 34 years20,52216,4604,06119.811.
35 to 44 years44,07438,1395,93413.
45 to 54 years40,23436,7863,4488.
55 to 64 years27,39925,6441,7556.
65 to 84 years30,68729,4411,2464.
85 years and older3,5473,4221253.
Race and Hispanic origin
White alone228,198197,95330,24413.
White alone, not Hispanic192,458168,52423,93412.
Black alone35,33328,9816,35218.
Asian alone11,4309,5071,92316.
Hispanic (of any race)38,68031,7276,95318.
Foreign born33,45327,6395,81417.
Marital Status (15 years and older)
Total 225,250 194,594 30,656 13.6 7.8 2.7 2.7 0.5
Married 120,349108,05112,29810.
Divorced or separated26,39621,6944,70317.811.
Never married64,50351,77212,73119.711.
Education (25 years and older)
Total 185,183 163,362 21,821 11.8 6.7 2.3 2.4 0.4
Not a high school graduate28,59925,1863,41311.
High school graduate59,29252,9536,33910.
Some college or associate degree46,91041,1675,74312.
Bachelor's degree33,21328,7934,42013.
Graduate degree17,16915,2641,90611.
Household income (in 2002)
Less than $25,00062,14350,33611,80719.
$25,000 to $49,99975,01063,42411,58715.
$50,000 to $99,99995,23283,65111,58112.
$100,000 and over50,17145,0525,11910.
Poverty status (in 2002)
Above poverty level248,066216,28431,78212.
Below poverty level34,49026,1788,31224.
Household type
In married-couple family households180,967162,23318,73410.
In other households101,58980,23021,35921.
Housing tenure

day affairs, making the distance traveled worthwhile. Some families gathered on the family farm. Ethnic roots of families with immigrant grandparents or great-grandparents often made traditional foods, music, and religious celebrations focal points of reunions. According to Lewin, Alex Haley's Roots prompted a surge in family


Reasons for moving by type of move, 2002–03
(Movers, 1 year and older)
Reason All movers Intracounty Intercounty From abroad
source: Jason P. Schachter, "Table F. Reasons for Moving by Type of Move, 2002–2003," in Geographical Mobility, 2002–2003, Current Population Reports, P20-549, U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, March 2004, (accessed July 19, 2004)
Total movers (thousands) 40,093 23,468 15,356 1,269
Family-related reasons 26.324.728.529.4
Change in marital status6.
To establish own household7.
Other family reasons12.69.516.819.0
Work-related reasons
New job/job transfer8.81.718.622.6
To look for work/lost job1.
Closer to work/easier commute3.
Other job related reason1.
Housing-related reasons 51.365.333.58.8
Wanted to own home/not rent10.
New/better house/apartment19.826.211.34.5
Better neighborhood/less crime3.
Cheaper housing6.
Other housing11.
Other reasons
Attend/leave college2.
Change of climate0.
Health reasons1.
Other reason2.51.82.713.2

reunions among African-American families as early as the 1970s and 1980s. A 2002 poll by the Travel Industry of America revealed that one in three adults had traveled to a reunion in the last three years, and nearly one-fourth had attended a reunion in the past year.

Mobility also resulted in social disconnection for some families, particularly those that moved often. In his 2000 book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Harvard University professor Robert D. Putnam noted that putting down roots in a new community took time. People who expected to move again in the next five years were 20–25% less likely to attend church, join clubs, or do volunteer work. The effort to become part of the new community, only to move again and leave new friends, seemed too much for some families.


Despite lower birth rates and women delaying childbirth, increased longevity has resulted in people from four or five generations being alive at the same time. A number of researchers addressed issues that resulted from multiple generations coexisting in society, the workplace, and the same family. Books such as Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069, the 1991 work by William Strauss and Neil Howe, grouped people into generations based on events and time periods in American history. The authors identified common experiences shared by members of each generation that they believed had similar influences on the life attitudes of all members of that group. They suggested a recurring sequence of generational types and recurring social indicators such as substance abuse, fertility, immigration, and economic advance and setback.

Census 2000 identified 3.9 million families, 3.7% of all households, that contained three or four generations. The most common grouping (65%) of multigenerational households included the householder and his or her children and grandchildren. Immigrant families were more likely to have more than three generations in the household. In some cases, this was cultural, while in others immigrant families could not afford separate housing accommodations.

Grandparents Raising Grandchildren

A growing trend in families is grandparents who have taken responsibility for raising grandchildren and sometimes great-grandchildren. The Census Bureau's 2003 Current Population Survey reported that 3.8 million children (5% of all children) lived in the home of one or both grandparents. In 19% of cases where children lived with grandparents, there were three or more children in the home. Often one or both parents of the children were also present in the home. In more than one-third of cases, however, neither of the children's parents were present and the grandparent(s) were responsible for the children. In 1970, 957,000 grandchildren were being raised by their grandparents without a parent present; in 2003 that number had increased almost 50% to 1.4 million children who were the responsibility of their grandparents. (See Table 6.6.)

Denver's Rocky Mountain News focused on the challenges faced by grandparents raising their grandchildren in a November 9, 2002, feature, "Grandparents as Parents: The Second Time Around." In Colorado 43% of grandparents living with grandchildren were actually raising the children. In Census Tract 9.02 on the south side of Pueblo, Colorado (Census tracts are small subdivisions of a county), reporter Burt Hubbard discovered a total of 140 grandparents with grandchildren in their homes. One hundred percent of these grandparents were raising one or more grandchildren, some since birth. The reasons ranged from parents who were deceased, in prison or addicted to drugs, or those who simply could not handle the responsibility of a child. The oldest grandparent interviewed was more than ninety years old and had raised her ten-year-old grandchild since birth.

These grandparents faced financial challenges. Many were living on retirement income or Social Security stipends; some had to return to the workforce. Expecting to coddle and spoil their grandchildren, they found themselves


Grandchildren living with grandparents, 1970–2003
(Numbers in thousands)
With parent(s) present
Year Total children under 18 Total Both parents present Mother only present Father only present Without parent(s) present
source: "Table CH-7. Grandchildren Living in the Home of Their Grandparents: 1970–Present," U.S. Census Bureau, September 15, 2004, (accessed September 24, 2004)
1980 Census63,3692,30631092286988
1970 Census69,2762,21436381778957

instead in the role of disciplinarians. They had to navigate new cultural attitudes among the younger generation and a school system that had changed dramatically since their own children were school age.

Grandparents Assisted Financially

Many grandparents helped with child care for their grandchildren while the parents worked. Some grandparents were called upon to assist their children with financial needs of the grandchildren. A 2003 survey by Wirthlin Worldwide found that 54% of grandparents planned to contribute to their grandchildren's college education expenses. One-quarter of those surveyed expected to pay 25–50% of the costs, while 20% planned to finance as much as 75% of the expenses.


As America's mobile society became more racially and ethnically diverse, dating, cohabiting, and marrying a person of another race or ethnic background has become more accepted, at least among the baby boomers and succeeding generations. In 1980, 651,000 couples, 1.3% of all married couples, were identified as interracial. By 2000 interracial couples accounted for 2.6% of married couples. Between 1980 and 2002 the total number of couples increased 16.5%, but the number of interracial couples increased 137%. Of the 1.7 million interracial couples, nearly three-quarters (73%) were composed of one white person and a person of another race other than African-American. (See Table 6.7.)

The Census Bureau changed the way information on race was gathered in 2000. For the first time, individuals were allowed to identify themselves as of more than one race or of a race other than the standard choices—white, black or African-American, American Indian and Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Other Pacific Islander. While 97.6% of the population identified themselves with one race, 2.4% identified themselves with two or more races. The trend in multiracial identification was most apparent among youth. Of persons reporting themselves as a mix of two or more races, 42% were under age eighteen. Figure 6.3 demonstrates visually the areas of the country in which 40–50% of youth identified themselves with two or more races in 2000.


In the 1990s unmarried, opposite-sex couples cracked the door to gaining employer sponsored dependent benefits for live-in partners. Same-sex partners soon pursued the same benefits. In August 2000 the "Big Three" domestic automakers from Detroit—Ford, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler—added full health-care benefits for the domestic partners of their 500,000 U.S. employees. Gannett, the largest newspaper publisher in the country (ninety-eight U.S. papers plus twenty-two television stations), introduced domestic-partner benefits beginning January 1, 2002. In September 2002 Purdue University announced that it would become the seventh Big Ten school to offer benefits to same-sex domestic partners of university employees. According to a February 2004 article in Kiplinger Business Forecasts, about 20% of private sector and government employers, and more than 40% of Fortune 500 companies, offered domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples.


Interracial couples, 1980–2002
(Numbers in thousands. Includes all interracial married couples with at least one spouse of white or black race.)
Interracial married couples
Year Total married couples Total Total Black husband white wife White husband black wife White/other race* Black/other race*
NA Not available.
* "Other race," is any race other than White or Black, such as American Indian, Japanese, Chinese, etc. This total excludes combinations of other races by other races.
source: "Table MS-3. Interracial Couples: 1980–2002," U.S. Census Bureau, September 15, 2004,–fam/tabMS–3.pdf (accessed September 24, 2004)

Same-sex partners lobbied for recognition and rights—including marriage, divorce, adoption, child custody, property and inheritance, hospital visitation, and medical decision-making. In 1997, in the first state law of its kind, the Hawaii legislature gave gays and lesbians the right to participate in their partners' medical insurance and state pensions and granted them inheritance rights, joint property ownership rights, and the right to sue for wrongful death. In 1999 California recognized same-sex couples as "domestic partners." The Vermont Civil Union law, implemented in 2000, offered same-sex couples many of the legal rights available to married couples. New Jersey's legislature passed a domestic partner law in 2004 with limited rights including insurance and medical decision-making.

Domestic Partners Recognized in Survivor Rights

The plight of domestic partners made headlines after September 11, 2001, as domestic partners of individuals who died in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon found themselves ineligible for survivor benefits from Social Security, workers' compensation, and potentially from victim compensation funds. If the deceased left no will, the partner had no legal claim to the estate. Since September 11, 2001, the Red Cross, the United Way, and several other relief agencies have taken steps to assure fair treatment of gay and lesbian partners. New York Governor George Pataki issued an Executive Order on October 11, 2001, granting same-sex partners the same benefits as spouses from the New York State Crime Victims Board.

In June 2002 President George W. Bush signed a bill making domestic partners eligible for death benefits paid to survivors of firefighters and police officers who die in the line of duty. Retroactive to September 11, 2001, the new law allowed a $250,000 federal benefit paid to any beneficiary listed on the victim's life insurance policy, previously restricted to spouses, children, and parents. The new law was named for the Reverend Mychal Judge, the New York Fire Department's chaplain who died in the collapse of the World Trade Center. The law marked the first extension of federal benefits to domestic partners.

Gay and Lesbian Marriage Remains Controversial

Reflecting changing societal attitudes toward lesbian and gay partners, the New York Times announced in August 2002 that it would include reports of same-sex commitment ceremonies and some formal registrations of lesbian and gay partnerships in its Sunday Styles section, along with reports of opposite-sex engagements and weddings.

While insurance and survivor benefits were available to gay and lesbian partners, many couples pushed for the same marriage rights as those available to heterosexual


couples. This issue became the subject of heated debate across the nation. State legislatures and courts struggled with proposals to recognize or to ban same-sex marriages and/or civil unions. In his 2004 reelection campaign, President George W. Bush proposed a constitutional amendment to ban marriage between persons of the same sex.

Gay and Lesbian Families with Children

Many gay and lesbian couples raise children—biological children of one or both members of the couple or adopted children. Of same-sex partner households in Census 2000, 22.3% of male households and 34.37% of female households included children. The National Adoption


Type of computer activity at work, by selected characteristics, September 2001
Employed persons who used a computer at work (in thousands) Percent who used a computer for:
Characteristic Word processing or desktop publishing Internet or e-mail Calendar or scheduling Spread sheets or databases Graphics or design Programing Other activities
Note: Data refer to computer use on the sole or primary job. The percentage of persons who used computers for various activities may exceed 100 percent as persons may report multiple activities. Detail for the above race and Hispanic-origin groups will not sum to totals because data for the "other races" group are not presented and Hispanics are included in both the white and black population groups.
source: "Table 3. Type of Computer Activity at Work by Selected Characteristics, September 2001," in Computer and Internet Use at Work in 2001, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2002, (accessed September 14, 2004)
Age and sex
Total, 16 years and over72,27767.071.852.962.328.815.213.1
16 to 24 years7,08753.656.145.652.220.812.214.3
16 to 19 years1,53239.836.932.135.712.87.419.6
20 to 24 years5,55557.461.349.356.722.913.612.8
25 years and over65,19068.473.653.763.429.715.612.9
25 to 34 years17,03868.874.856.366.430.017.612.6
35 to 44 years20,90968.873.755.565.231.316.912.0
45 to 54 years18,07569.474.153.562.329.913.513.7
55 to 64 years7,68166.471.547.057.525.512.913.8
65 years and over1,48858.
Race and Hispanic origin
Hispanic origin4,75464.061.749.757.922.812.711.9
Full- or part-time status
Usually full time on primary job58,91868.474.055.264.329.616.212.7
Usually part time on primary job8,41459.757.739.249.822.89116.0
Hours vary on primary job4,94562.770.749.659.529.114.012.1
Educational attainment
Total, 25 years and over65,19068.473.653.763.429.715.612.9
Less than a high school diploma1,83145.546.940.745.715.511.319.2
High school graduate, no college14,22755.259.946.253.819.911.614.5
Some college, no degree12,56564.
Associate degree7,01361.667.451.258.225.914.914.9
College degree29,55379.685.259.971.537.418.611.1
Advanced degree10,68583.887.

Information Clearinghouse (NAIC) reported that gays and lesbians had always adopted children but that the number of these adoptive parents was unknown.

adoption by gays and lesbians. Adoption rules differed in each state. Ten states (California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia allowed openly gay and lesbian individuals or couples to adopt. Although some joint adoption applications were successful in other states, the most common practice was for one member of the couple to apply as the legal adoptive parent of the child. In 2000 Florida and Utah were joined by Mississippi as the only states specifically banning lesbians and gays from adopting children.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2001, 72.3 million persons used a computer at work, and two out of every five employed persons was connected to the Internet or used e-mail on the job. More women (59.6%) used a computer at work than men (47.9%), and 41.2% of women used the Internet in the workplace compared to 36% of men.

Table 6.8 illustrates typical computer functions used by people in the workplace. Internet or e-mail was the most frequent use of a computer, used by 71.8% of all workers. Other computer functions used by more than half of workers were word processing (67%), spreadsheets and databases (62.3%), and calendar or scheduling programs (52.9%). The likelihood of computer or Internet use at work was much higher among more educated workers. While less than half of workers who did not have high school diplomas used computers at work, 80% of workers with college degrees used computers for Internet and e-mail access, as well as for word processing or desktop publishing.

Computers and the Internet offered vast new resources for people seeking new jobs, and 9.2% of the population


Job search activity using the Internet, by selected characteristics, September 2001*
(Numbers in thousands)
Total civilian noninstitutional population Job search activity of persons who used the Internet to search for a job (percent)
Characteristic Total Total who used the Internet to search for a job Percent of total Read on–line ads or searched on–line job listings Researched information on potential employers Submitted a resume or application Posted a resume on a job listing site or with a service Posted on resume on own Website Other activities
*Refers to use of the Internet to search for a job "this year," that is, from January to September 2001.
Note: The percentage of persons performing each activity may exceed 100 percent as persons may perform more than one activity. Detail for the above race and Hispanic-origin groups will not sum to totals because data for the "other races" group are not presented and Hispanics are included in both the white and black population groups.
source: "Table 5. Job Search Activity Using the Internet by Selected Characteristics, September 2001," in Computer and Internet Use at Work in 2001, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 2002, (accessed September 14, 2004)
Age and sex
Total, 16 years and over212,35719,6169.292.067.449.536.74.83.7
16 to 24 years35,1954,41512.592.363.245.935.64.82.7
16 to 19 years16,2061,1086.891.554.
20 to 24 years18,9903,30817.492.566.249.938.75.43.0
25 years and over177,16215,2018.691.968.750.537.04.83.9
25 to 34 years37,0326,23816.892.370.752.942.25.53.5
35 to 44 years44,3184,89011.091.968.650.435.44.43.8
45 to 54 years38,6423,0517.991.366.248.932.54.34.4
55 to 64 years24,3288773.689.967.441.326.92.75.4
65 years and over32,842145.494.146.543.224.66.610.0
Race and Hispanic origin
Hispanic origin23,2881,3775.989.267.747.
Educational attainment
Total, 25 years and over177,16215,2018.691.968.750.537.04.83.9
Less than a high school diploma27,4844021.588.858.238.930.34.61.9
High school graduate, no college57,3862,8124.990.959.
Some college, no degree30,6413,0299.992.
Associate degree14,7791,66711.393.765.448.334.74.73.7
College degree46,8727,29115.691.976.055.940.85.74.8
Advanced degree16,2832,39014.791.677.855.639.36.44.8

used this resource in 2001, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey. Educational level was again a significant factor in who used online job search resources. Sixteen percent of people with college degrees searched for jobs on the Internet, compared to 1.5% of persons with less than a high school diploma. Age was not a factor. Of those using the Internet to search for a job, a greater proportion of people age sixty-five and over (94.1%) searched online job listings compared to 92% of the total population. Among people who conducted Internet job searches, reading online job ads and researching employers was the most frequent activity. Half of online job seekers submitted an application or resume electronically. (See Table 6.9.)

Computers in the Home

The proportion of households with computers grew from 8.2% in 1984 to 56.5% percent in 2001, according to Census Bureau data. While only 18% of homes had Internet access in 1997, 50.5% were Internet-linked in 2000. In 2001 married-couple households with children under eighteen were most likely to have a computer (78.9%) and Internet access (71.6%). Availability of a computer and Internet connections increased with the educational level of the householder and family income. Computers were found in 72.7% of Asian-American households compared to just 37.1% of African-American households. (See Table 6.10.)

How Children Spent Their Computer Time

A majority of children from ages five to seventeen used computers at home, but their use of the Internet increased significantly with age. About 25% of five-year-olds had access to the Internet compared to more than 75% of fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds, a U.S. Department of Education study found. (See Figure 6.4.) White, non-Hispanic children had the highest rate of computer use at home (77%) and at school (84%). While just 41% of African-American and Hispanic children used computers at home, African-American children had greater access to computers at school (80%) than Hispanic children (72%). (See Figure 6.5.)

TABLE 6.10

Households with computers and Internet access, 2001
(In percent)
Households with computers Households with Internet access
Characteristic Total Rural Urban Central city Total Rural Urban Central city
source: "No. 1158. Households with Computers and Internet Access by Selected Characteristics, 2001," in Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2003, U.S. Census Bureau, 2004, (accessed September 15, 2004)
All households 56.5 55.6 56.7 51.5 50.5 48.7 51.1 45.7
Age of householder:
Under 25 years old51.141.353.050.944.733.546.745.3
25 to 34 years old62.561.562.857.557.355.458.853.9
35 to 44 years old69.971.269.462.162.662.363.454.3
45 to 54 years old66.968.066.459.960.961.161.353.4
55 years old or over39.138.039.535.533.932.135.029.9
Householder race/ethnicity:
American, Indian, Eskimo, Aleut*44.737.649.538.731.441.544.1
Asian or Pacific Islander*72.769.472.867.468.
Household type:
Married couple with children under 1878.978.679.072.471.669.773.664.6
Male householder with children under 1855.153.655.651.844.939.947.244.3
Female householder with children under 1849.251.048.941.640.040.942.333.5
Family households without children58.855.060.455.253.248.955.349.7
Nonfamily households39.231.640.941.435.026.936.237.0
Education of householder:
Some high school28.227.628.425.522.722.422.619.8
High school graduate or GED46.550.
Some college64.568.563.258.457.760.257.352.0
Bachelor's degree or more79.881.179.576.775.
Household income:
Under $5,00025.917.928.224.520.512.523.020.2
$5,000 to $9,99919.216.420.120.614.411.015.514.5
$10,000 to $14,99925.724.326.324.319.418.120.719.3
$15,000 to $19,99931.829.432.633.923.621.025.324.6
$20,000 to $24,99940.
$25,000 to $34,99949.749.449.949.942.240.543.741.3
$35,000 to $49,99964.364.764.264.456.455.057.556.2
$50,000 to $74,99977.778.177.675.871.470.671.770.5
$75,000 and over89.089.088.986.485.484.885.583.8

From ages five through fourteen children spent the greatest percentage of their computer time playing computer games. By ages fifteen through seventeen, the computer was used for completing school assignments (64.2%), connecting to the Internet (62.9%), and playing computer games (59.6%). Communicating with friends and family by e-mail increased with age, from 9.5% for ages five to seven to 57.7% for ages fifteen to seventeen. (See Table 6.11.)


In addition to the community disconnect brought about by mobility, Robert D. Putnam noted a disconnect among family members in his 2000 book Bowling Alone. Putnam attributed the problem to the availability of more individualized entertainment media. Three or four generations earlier the whole family, and sometimes the neighbors as well, gathered around the radio to hear about world events or laugh together at the antics of favorite comedians. They shared the moment and discussed it afterward. Each member of the twenty-first century family, however, could choose his/her own entertainment (TV, DVD, CD, or computer), go to separate rooms or put on headphones, and be entertained in isolation. Thus busy family members, who often grabbed something to eat on the run in their rush to get to work, school, and activities, spent less time interacting with each other during their at-home time.

A variety of organizations began to address the isolation of family members in the twenty-first-century lifestyle. Research by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University consistently found that the more often children ate dinner with their families, the less likely they were to smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs. In 2001 the Center initiated Family Day (the



last Monday in September) as a national effort to promote parental engagement with their children through the simple act of regular family meals. Nick at Night and TV Land cable television networks joined the promotion with a series of public service announcements (PSAs) called "The Family Table—Share More Than Meals." These PSAs were described as "a pro-social initiative designed to celebrate all of our unique families, and to encourage loved ones to reconnect." Special programming on these networks featured classic TV episodes in which the show's central plot was revealed or resolved around the family dinner table.

TABLE 6.11

Percentage of children age 5–17 using home computers for specific activities, by child and family characteristics, 2001
Home computer activity
Total number of children in thousands Word processing Connect to the Internet E-mail Spreadsheets or databases1 Graphics and design1 Complete school assignments Manage household records or finances1 Play games Other
User characteristics Percent Percent Percent Percent Percent Percent Percent Percent Percent
All persons age 5–1753,01332.445.634.444.259.22.8
Child characteristics
American Indian63720.731.720.82.12.332.00.551.71.9
Disability status
Not disabled45,41633.045.935.03.85.545.00.559.82.8
Family & household characteristics
Parent educational attainment
Less than high sch. credential5,45011.114.510.41.51.918.3#22.81.0
High school credential13,61122.835.
Some college15,66534.348.736.04.05.847.50.764.62.9
Bachelor's degree6,71242.860.845.
Graduate education9,11452.267.652.16.28.362.50.981.74.7
Family/household type
Two parent household37,23036.651.638.84.45.849.60.766.62.9
Male householder2,71526.737.829.84.06.737.
Female householder12,44021.929.722.42.63.730.3#40.12.1
Other arrangement62819.136.326.91.84.530.40.743.83.2
Household language
Not Spanish-only50,46433.547.
Poverty status
In poverty9,27712.517.
Not in poverty36,90438.753.740.74.56.451.40.768.53.1
Family income
Under $20,0008,34413.116.811.
$75,000 or more12,01852.269.354.06.58.863.
— Not available. Data were not collected.
# Percentage less than 0.5.
1Questions about some computer activities were asked only about persons age 15 and older.
2White, Black, Asian, and American Indian respectively indicate White, non-Hispanic; Black, non-Hispanic; Asian or Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic; and American Indian, Aleut, or Eskimo, non-Hispanic.
source: Adapted from "Table 4. Percentage of Persons Age 5–17 Using Home Computers for Specific Activities, by Child and Family Household Characteristics, 2001," in Computer and Internet Use by Children in 2001, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics, October 2003, (accessed September 18, 2004)
Metropolitan, city center12,24925.
Metropolitan, outlying areas23,56636.550.838.54.45.749.20.764.42.9

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