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September 2003, Vol. 126, No. 9
Families and work in transition in 12 countries, 1980–2001
Gary Martin and Vladimir Kats
Profound changes in family structure
and employment patterns took place in
12 developed countries during the last two decades of the 20th century, continuing earlier trends. The traditional nuclear family unit, a married couple with children, declined steadily as a proportion of all households. Married-couple households without children maintained a generally stable share. By contrast, the proportion of single-parent and one-person households rose in all of the countries studied. The United States had the highest proportion of single-parent households throughout the period, but some countries had larger increases. The one-person household became the dominant living arrangement in Denmark and Sweden.
Accompanying and interacting with these trends in household composition were continued demographic shifts and changes in the work-family relationship. Fertility rates, already low by historic and world standards in 1980, fell further in most of the countries studied, but rose and then leveled off in the United States. U.S. marriage and divorce rates remained the highest in the developed world, but other countries were narrowing the difference. The proportion of children born outside of marriage rose in all of the countries examined, with the two Scandinavian countries maintaining the highest percentages throughout the period. The United States was among a group of countries joining Sweden with a lower average age of women at first birth than at first marriage.
Women of childbearing and child-rearing ages entered the labor force in greater numbers, and the proportion of working mothers with very young children rose rapidly in the last decade, except in Sweden, where the proportion declined, but remained the highest among the countries studied. U.S. single mothers had much higher rates of employment than most of their European counterparts.
This excerpt is from an article published in the September 2003 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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