Single Parent Statistics In The U.S. And Worldwide [2022 Data]

An in-depth look at single parent statistics in the US and worldwide, why single-parent families are increasing, the number of single mothers vs. single fathers, and more. Read on:

Few things are as difficult as single-parenting. Single mothers, in particular, make less money than single fathers, and a large percentage are struggling just to eat.

With that in mind, it’s hard to see why the number of single-parent families is increasing. To understand the trend, we’ll need to unpack the numbers, rates, and causes of single-parenting.

Here are some highlights from our research:

  • Single mothers make up 9.33% of all U.S. families, making them roughly three times more common than single fathers, who make up 3.17%. 
  • Since 2014, the median income of single fathers has remained at least $10,000 higher than the median income of single mothers. 
  • From 1970 to 1980, the percentage of families with a single parent in the U.S. increased nearly 15% – from 12.84% in 1970 to 27.43% in 1980.
  • A higher percentage of single mothers (51%) than single fathers (36%) have never been married. 
  • Nearly half (44%) of single mothers worldwide are struggling to pay for food. 
  • 2006 had the highest rate of single-parent families in the U.S., with 32.78% of all households with children under 18 having a single-parent that year.
  • The U.S. has the highest rate of single-parent families in the world.  
  • Americans who don’t graduate high school are less than half as likely to be single parents than high school graduates or those with an associate’s degree.

Single-Parent Families in the U.S. – Father vs. Mother

While the majority of single-parent families have a single mother, roughly one-quarter have a single father

Here are the numbers of single-parent families by gender:

  • There were 7,829,000 single-mother families with children under 18 in the U.S. in 2021 (9.33% of all families) and 2,661,000 single-father families (3.17% of all families). (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)1
  • Of all single-parent families, 8,765,000 single-mother families and 2,251,000 single-father families lived in their own household, with a relative, or with a non-relative in 2021. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)1

How Many Single-Parent Households Are There?

Families come in all sorts of configurations throughout the U.S. and the world. Here’s a breakdown of how the number of single-parent families has been evolving over the years. 

  • On average, 6.8% of households worldwide are single-parent households. (Pew Research Center, 2019)2
  • Single-parent households have been increasing in the U.S. since 1970. Here are the data and percentages of single-parent families with children under 18 by year: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)1
    • 1970
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 3,803,000 households (12.84% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 3,410,000 households (89.67% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 393,000 households (10.33% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1980
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 6,920,000 households (27.43% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 6,230,000 households (90.03% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 690,000 households (9.97% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1981
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 7,283,000 households (22.41% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 6,513,000 households (89.43% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 770,000 households (10.57% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1982
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 8,091,000 households (24.60% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 7,286,000 households (90.05% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 805,000 households (9.95% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1983
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 8,288,000 households (25.09% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 7,395,000 households (89.23% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 893,000 households (10.77% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1984
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 8,544,000 households (25.70% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 7,599,000 households (88.94% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 945,000 households (11.06% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1985
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 8,779,000 households (27.32% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 7,737,000 households (88.13% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,042,000 households (11.87% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1986
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 8,930,000 households (26.31% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 7,842,000 households (87.82% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,088,000 households (12.18% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1987
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 9,236,000 households (26.97% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 8,128,000 households (88.00% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,107,000 households (11.99% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1988
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 9,368,000 households (27.28% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 8,146,000 households (86.96% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,222,000 households (13.04% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1989
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 9,513,000 households (27.49% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 8,315,000 households (87.41% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,199,000 households (12.60% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1990
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 9,749,000 households (28.12% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 8,398,000 households (86.14% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,351,000 households (13.86% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1991
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 10,110,000 households (28.91% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 8,745,000 households (86.50% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,365,000 households (13.50% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1992
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 10,499,000 households (29.68% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,028,000 households (85.99% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,472,000 households (14.02% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1993
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 10,901,000 households (30.23% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,339,000 households (88.95% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,562,000 households (14.88% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1994
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,140,000 households (30.83% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,854,000 households (86.36% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,556,000 households (13.64% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1995
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,527,000 households (31.01% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,833,000 households (85.30% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,694,000 households (14.70% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1996
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,717,000 households (31.60% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,855,000 households (84.11% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,862,000 households (15.89% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1997
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 12,042,000 households (32.01% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 10,012,000 households (83.14% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,030,000 households (16.86% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1998
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,948,000 households (31.73% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,828,000 households (82.26% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,120,000 households (17.74% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 1999
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,891,000 households (31.77% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,840,000 households (82.75% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,051,000 households (17.25% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2000
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,725,000 households (31.27% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,681,000 households (82.57% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,044,000 households (17.43% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2001
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,814,000 households (30.81% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,658,000 households (81.75% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,156,000 households (18.25% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2002
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 12,201,000 households (31.71% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,969,000 households (81.71% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,232,000 households (18.29% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2003
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 12,402,000 households (31.93% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 10,142,000 households (81.78% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,260,000 households (18.22% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2004
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 12,624,000 households (32.37% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 10,336,000 households (81.88% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,288,000 households (18.12% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2005
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 12,835,000 households (32.64% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 10,366,000 households (80.76% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,469,000 households (19.24% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2006
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 12,905,000 households (32.78% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 10,404,000 households (80.62% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,501,000 households (19.38% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2007
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,707,000 households (29.28% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,965,000 households (85.12% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,742,000 households (14.88% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2008
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,594,000 households (29.78% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,753,000 households (84.12% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,841,000 households (15.88% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2009
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,622,000 households (29.84% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,880,000 households (85.01% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,742,000 households (14.99% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2010
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,686,000 households (30.14% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,924,000 households (84.92% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,762,000 households (15.08% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2011
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,867,000 households (30.67% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 10,144,000 households (85.48% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,735,000 households (14.62% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2012
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 12,278,000 households (31.82% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 10,322,000 households (84.07% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,956,000 households (15.93% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2013
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 12,007,000 households (31.13% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 10,007,000 households (83.34% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,000,000 households (16.66% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2014
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,874,000 households (30.77% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,929,000 households (83.62% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,945,000 households (16.38% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2015
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,780,000 households (30.48% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,891,000 households (83.96% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 1,889,000 households (16.04% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2016
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,814,000 households (30.87% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,781,000 households (82.79% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,033,000 households (17.21% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2017
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,667,000 households (30.81% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,497,000 households (81.40% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,170,000 households (18.60% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2018
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,322,000 households (30.03% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 9,232,000 households (81.54% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,090,000 households (18.46% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2019
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,008,000 households (29.45% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 8,880,000 households (80.67% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,128,000 households (19.33% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2020
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 10,720,000 households (29.07% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 8,625,000 households (80.46% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,094,000 households (19.53% of all Single-Parent households)
    • 2021
      • Total Single-Parent households
        • 11,016,000 households (29.87% of all households with children under 18)
      • Single-Mother family
        • 8,765,000 households (79.57% of all Single-Parent households)
      • Single-Father family
        • 2,251,000 households (20.43% of all Single-Parent households)

Children of Single-Parent Households

While there are a significant number of single-parent families in the U.S. and around the world, the number of children living in single-parent families can be more indicative of the actual impact of this family structure on society and its future. 

The following statistics show the numbers of children living in single-parent families and how they’ve changed over time:

  • 23% of U.S. children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults. This is more than three times the global average of 7%. (Pew Research Center, 2019)2
  • Countries with the highest rates of children in single-parent households: (Pew Research Center, 2019)2
    • 1. U.S. – 23% of children living in a single-parent household
    • 2. UK – 21% of children 
    • 3. Sao Tome and Principe – 19% of children
    • 4. Russia – 18% of children
    • 5. Denmark – 17% of children
    • 6/7. France and Kenya – 16% of children 
    • 8. Canada – 15% of children 
    • 9. Ireland – 14% of children
    • 10. Germany – 12% of children
    • 11/12. Brazil and Uganda – 10% of children 
    • 13. Ukraine – 9% of children 
    • 14/15. Japan and Mexico – 7% of children
    • 16. Pakistan – 6% of children 
    • 17/18. India and Israel – 5% of children
    • 19/20. Vietnam and Nigeria – 4% of children 
    • 21. China – 3% of children 
    • 22. Turkey – 2% of children
    • 23/24. Afghanistan and Mali – 1% of children 
  • There were 19.17 million children living with a single parent in 2021. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021a)3
  • Here are the numbers of U.S. children under 18 living with a single-parent from 1960 to 2021. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021a)3
    • 1960
      • 5,829,000 children (9.15% of all children under 18 years old)
    • 1968
      • 8,332,000 children (11.85% of all children)
    • 1969
      • 8,509,000 children (12.10% of all children)
    • 1970
      • 8,200,000 children (11.86% of all children)
    • 1971
      • 9,478,000 children (13.49% of all children)
    • 1972
      • 9,634,000 children (14.00% of all children)
    • 1973
      • 10,093,000 children (14.85% of all children)
    • 1974
      • 10,489,000 children (15.64% of all children)
    • 1975
      • 11,245,000 children (17.02% of all children)
    • 1976
      • 11,121,000 children (17.08% of all children)
    • 1977
      • 11,311,000 children (17.66% of all children)
    • 1978
      • 11,710,000 children (18.53% of all children)
    • 1979
      • 11,528,000 children (18.48% of all children)
    • 1980
      • 12,466,000 children (19.65% of all children)
    • 1981
      • 12,619,000 children (20.06% of all children)
    • 1982
      • 13,701,000 children (21.95% of all children)
    • 1983
      • 14,006,000 children (22.49% of all children)
    • 1984
      • 14,024,000 children (22.57% of all children)
    • 1985
      • 14,635,000 children (23.43% of all children)
    • 1986
      • 14,759,000 children (23.52% of all children)
    • 1987
      • 15,071,000 children (23.95% of all children)
    • 1988
      • 15,329,000 children (24.26% of all children)
    • 1989
      • 15,493,000 children (24.35% of all children)
    • 1990
      • 15,867,000 children (24.74% of all children)
    • 1991
      • 16,624,000 children (25.54% of all children)
    • 1992
      • 17,578,000 children (26.65% of all children)
    • 1993
      • 17,872,000 children (26.72% of all children)
    • 1994
      • 18.591,000 children (26.75% of all children)
    • 1995
      • 18,938,000 children (26.96% of all children)
    • 1996
      • 19,752,000 children (27.86% of all children)
    • 1997
      • 19,799,000 children (27.89% of all children)
    • 1998
      • 19,777,000 children (27.71% of all children)
    • 1999
      • 19,899,000 children (27.75% of all children)
    • 2000
      • 19,220,000 children (26.69% of all children)
    • 2001
      • 19,250,000 children (26.69% of all children)
    • 2002
      • 19,770,000 children (27.34% of all children)
    • 2003
      • 20,093,000 children (27.52% of all children)
    • 2004
      • 20,474,000 children (27.97% of all children)
    • 2005
      • 20,722,000 children (28.2% of all children)
    • 2006
      • 20,619,000 children (27.99% of all children)
    • 2007
      • 19,047,000 children (25.83% of all children)
    • 2008
      • 19,501,000 children (26.32% of all children)
    • 2009
      • 19,415,000 children (26.16% of all children)
    • 2010
      • 19,855,000 children (26.57% of all children)
    • 2011
      • 20,234,000 children (27.34% of all children)
    • 2012
      • 20,915,000 children (28.33% of all children)
    • 2013
      • 20,531,000 children (27.78% of all children)
    • 2014
      • 20,258,000 children (27.49% of all children)
    • 2015
      • 19,757,000 children (26.84% of all children)
    • 2016
      • 20,229,000 children (27.43% of all children)
    • 2017
      • 19,973,000 children (27.07% of all children)
    • 2018
      • 19,646,000 children (26.64% of all children)
    • 2019
      • 18,998,000 children (25.84% of all children)
    • 2020
      • 18,580,000 children (25.49% of all children)
    • 2021
      • 19,172,000 children (26.42% of all children)
  • Here are the numbers of children under 18 living in each single-parent household in 2021: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021b)4
    • 1 child – 8,035,000 single-parent households have 1 child.
    • 2 children – 4,643,000 single-parent households.
    • 3 children – 1,598,000 single-parent households.
    • 4+ children – 703,000 single-parent households. 
  • The rates of single-parent households in the U.S. broken down by state are as follows: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)5
  • 1. Mississippi – 9.14% of households are single-parent. 
  • 2. Louisiana – 8.59% of households
  • 3. Georgia – 8.17% of households
  • 4. Texas – 7.89% of households.
  • 5. Alabama – 7.56% of households
  • 6. Arkansas – 7.53% of households
  • 7. New Mexico – 7.47% of households
  • 8. Washington D.C. – 7.41% of households
  • 9. Oklahoma – 7.38% of households
  • 10. South Carolina – 7.26% of households
  • 11. Tennessee – 7.09% of households
  • 12. North Carolina – 7.05% of households
  • 13. Nevada – 6.99% of households
  • 14. Maryland – 6.98% of households
  • 15. Ohio – 6.95% of households
  • 16. Rhode Island – 6.89% of households
  • 17. Indiana – 6.87% of households
  • 18. Kentucky – 6.79% of households
  • 19. Alaska – 6.66% of households
  • 20. Missouri – 6.58% of households
  • 21. New York – 6.56% of households
  • 22. Connecticut – 6.54% of households
  • 23. Arizona – 6.5% of households
  • 24. Illinois – 6.48% of households
  • 25. Delaware – 6.47% of households
  • 26. Michigan – 6.46% of households
  • 27. Virginia – 6.36% of households
  • 28. Florida – 6.32% of households
  • 29. Kansas – 6.18% of households
  • 30. New Jersey – 6.17% of households
  • 31. California – 6.16% of households
  • 32. Pennsylvania – 6.12% of households
  • 33. Massachusetts – 6.07% of households
  • 34. South Dakota – 6.07% of households
  • 35. Wisconsin – 6.05% of households
  • 36. Nebraska – 5.98% of households
  • 37. Iowa – 5.93% of households
  • 38. Colorado – 5.7% of households
  • 39. Minnesota – 5.62% of households
  • 40. West Virginia – 5.46% of households
  • 41. Idaho – 5.45% of households
  • 42. Utah – 5.45% of households
  • 43. Wyoming – 5.44% of households
  • 44. Oregon – 5.35% of households
  • 45. Washington – 5.34% of households
  • 46. North Dakota – 5.18% of households
  • 47. Montana – 5.06% of households
  • 48. Vermont – 5.05% of households
  • 49. Maine – 5.02% of households
  • 50. New Hampshire – 4.79% of households
  • 51. Hawaii – 4.45% of households

Child Support Data for Single Parents

For divorced or separated single parents, child support can be a crucial aspect of their financial stability. 

These numbers show how child support is distributed in U.S. families:

  • 69.3% of single parents who were supposed to receive child support in 2015 did receive some payments. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020)6
  • Roughly one-half (50.2%) of all parents with custody had either legal or informal child support agreements. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020)6
  • 21.7% of custodial parents requested government assistance to collect child support. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020)6
  • In 2015, $33.7 billion was owed in child support in the U.S. Only 43.5% of parents with custody who were supposed to receive child support actually received some payments. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020)6
  • 59.8% of the $33.7 billion in child support was received in 2015, averaging $3,447 received per parent annually. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020)6
  • 61.3% of parents with custody received some form of non-cash support for their children from parents without custody. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020)6

How Does Single-Parenting Affect Children?

Children are affected by a variety of factors in a family structure, but living with a single parent can have a particularly large impact on their lives. 

These data points illustrate the effects that single-parenting can have on children:

  • Children in single-parent families are most at risk for difficulty in school, behavioral problems, poverty, maltreatment, and other negative factors that affect health and well-being. (Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 2009)7
  • Children in single-parent families suffer the following negative life trends: (The Heritage Foundation, 2012)8
    • They are more than twice as likely to be arrested for juvenile crime. 
    • They are twice as likely to be treated for emotional and behavioral issues. 
    • About twice as likely to be suspended or expelled from school. 
    • A third are more likely to drop out of high school. 
  • Growing up in a single-parent family is linked to a higher risk of crime in adolescents. (Psychology, Crime, & Law, 2020.)9
  • Including divorces, an overall 10% increase in the number of children living with single parents has accompanied a 17% increase in juvenile crime. (Crime and Justice, 1995)10
  • Youths raised by single parents, after committing a first crime, are likely to commit further crimes. Additionally, they are over twice as likely as other criminal youths to commit more violence. (Crime and Justice, 1995)10

Single Parents by Age

  • 2021 statistics on single parents with children under 18 by age are as follows: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021b)4
    • Ages 15 to 24 – 1,204,000 single parents
    • Ages 25 to 29 – 2,416,000 single parents
    • Ages 30 to 34 – 2,329,000 single parents
    • Ages 35 to 39 – 2,822,000 single parents
    • Ages 40 to 44 – 2,378,000 single parents
    • Ages 45 to 49 – 1,552,000 single parents
    • Ages 50 to 54 – 1,038,000 single parents
    • Ages 55 to 64 – 482,000 single parents
    • Ages 65+ – 154,000 single parents

Single-Parent Data by Ethnicity

As with any trend, the numbers of single-parent families vary by ethnicity. These statistics on single-parent families by ethnicity show which ethnic demographics are most affected:

  • Of all single parents in the U.S., the majority (54.66%) are White/Caucasian. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)1
  • Single parents of Hispanic origin have seen the largest percentage increase, from 7.73% of all single parents in 1980 to 21.15% in 2021. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)1
  • The following is a breakdown of single-parent numbers and percentages by ethnicity: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)1
    • 1970
      • White/Caucasian/Caucasian single parents – 2,638,000 (69.68% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 1,148,000 (30.32% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – No data 
    • 1980
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 4,664,000 (63.49% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 2,114,000 (28.78% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 568,000 (7.73% of all single parents)
    • 1981
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 4,921,000 (63.17% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents -2,191,000 (28.13% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 678,000 (8.7% of all single parents)
    • 1982
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 5,423,000 (62.8% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 2,491,000 (28.84% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 722,000 (8.36% of all single parents)
    • 1983
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 5,332,000 (60.25% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 2,752,000 (31.1% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 766,000 (8.66% of all single parents)
    • 1984
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 5,529,000 (60.46% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 2,809,000 (30.72% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 807,000 (8.82% of all single parents)
    • 1985
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 5,757,000 (60.95% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 2,802,000 (29.67% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 886,000 (9.38% of all single parents)
    • 1986
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 5,964,000 (61.47% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 2,752,000 (28.36% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 987,000 (10.17% of all single parents)
    • 1987
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 6,104,000 (60.68% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 2,904,000 (28.87% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,051,000 (10.45% of all single parents)
    • 1988
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 6,090,000 (59.65% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,003,000 (29.42% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,116,000 (10.93% of all single parents)
    • 1989
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 6,086,000 (59.11% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,143,000 (30.53% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,067,000 (10.36% of all single parents)
    • 1990
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 6,389,000 (60.22% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,081,000 (29.04% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,140,000 (10.74% of all single parents)
    • 1991
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 6,550,000 (59.67% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,240,000 (29.52% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,187,000 (10.81% of all single parents)
    • 1992
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 6,938,000 (60.58% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,216,000 (28.08% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,298,000 (11.33% of all single parents)
    • 1993
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,167,000 (60.28% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,377,000 (28.41% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,344,000 (11.31% of all single parents)
    • 1994
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,335,000 (58.43% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,636,000 (28.96% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,583,000 (12.61% of all single parents)
    • 1995
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,525,000 (59.25% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,529,000 (27.79% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,646,000 (12.96% of all single parents)
    • 1996
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,769,000 (59.93% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,493,000 (26.94% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,702,000 (13.13% of all single parents)
    • 1997
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,948,000 (59.48% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,659,000 (27.38% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,756,000 (13.14% of all single parents)
    • 1998
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 8,077,000 (60.46% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,493,000 (26.15% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,789,000 (13.39% of all single parents)
    • 1999
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,993,000 (60.12% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,464,000 (26.05% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,839,000 (13.83% of all single parents)
    • 2000
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,838,000 (59.78% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,395,000 (25.89% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,878,000 (14.32% of all single parents)
    • 2001
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 8,005,000 (60.15% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,313,000 (24.89% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 1,991,000 (14.96% of all single parents)
    • 2002
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 8,169,000 (59.46% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,456,000 (25.15% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,114,000 (15.39% of all single parents)
    • 2003
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 8,229,000 (58.93% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,477,000 (24.9% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,257,000 (16.16% of all single parents)
    • 2004
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 8,268,000 (58.37% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,597,000 (25.39% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,300,000 (16.24% of all single parents)
    • 2005
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 8,641,000 (59.69% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,430,000 (23.69% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2.406.000 (16.62% of all single parents)
    • 2006
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 8,542,000 (58.99% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,558,000 (24.57% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,380,000 (16.44% of all single parents)
    • 2007
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,712,000 (58.09% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,356,000 (25.28% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,208,000 (16.63% of all single parents)
    • 2008
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,594,000 (58.05% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,347,000 (25.58% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,141,000 (16.37% of all single parents)
    • 2009
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,557,000 (56.96% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,387,000 (25.53% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,324,000 (17.52% of all single parents)
    • 2010
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,729,000 (57.22% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,280,000 (24.28% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,499,000 (18.5% of all single parents)
    • 2011
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,755,000 (56.28% of all single parents
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,375,000 (24.49% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,650,000 (19.23% of all single parents)
    • 2012
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 8,055,000 (56.97% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,359,000 (23.76% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,726,000 (19.28% of all single parents)
    • 2013
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,734,000 (55.9% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,348,000 (24.2% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,753,000 (19.9% of all single parents)
    • 2014
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,779,000 (56.16% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,309,000 (23.88% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,766,000 (19.97% of all single parents)
    • 2015
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,639,000 (56.21% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,262,000 (24.00% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,688,000 (19.78% of all single parents)
    • 2016
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,607,000 (55.69% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,308,000 (24.22% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,744,000 (20.09% of all single parents)
    • 2017
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,564,000 (55.86% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,242,000 (23.94% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,736,000 (20.2% of all single parents)
    • 2018
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,218,000 (55.05% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,212,000 (24.5% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,681,000 (20.45% of all single parents)
    • 2019
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 7,116,000 (55.39% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 2,960,000 (23.04% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,770,000 (21.56% of all single parents)
    • 2020
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 6,901,000 (54.99% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 2,976,000 (23.71% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,673,000 (21.3% of all single parents)
    • 2021
      • White/Caucasian single parents – 6,999,000 (54.66% of all single parents)
      • Black/African-American single parents – 3,097,000 (24.19% of all single parents)
      • Hispanic single parents – 2,708,000 (21.15% of all single parents)

Marital Status and History of Single Parents

While many single-parent families are a product of divorce, separation, or spousal death, these causes only account for about half of them. 

These percentages highlight the origins of single-parent families by marital history:

  • Nearly half (48%) of single parents have never been married, and 65% of cohabiting single parents have also never been married. (Pew Research Center, 2018)11
  • Of single fathers, 36% have never been married. Of single mothers, 51% have never been married. (Pew Research Center, 2018)11
  • A slight majority of single parents (50.04%, or 5.51 million) have never been married. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)1
  • Here’s a breakdown of single parents by gender and marital status: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2022)1
    • Never-married:
      • Single fathers:
        • 16.78% or 925,000 of never-married single parents.
      • Single mothers:
        • 83.22% or 4,587,000 of never-married single parents.
      • Total:
        • 50.04% or 5,512,000 single parents have never married.
    • Divorced:
      • Single fathers:
        • 24.93% or 852,000 of divorced single parents.
      • Single mothers:
        • 75.07% or 2,565,000 of divorced single parents.
      • Total:
        • 31.02% or 3,417,000 out of all single parents are divorced.
    • Separated:
      • Single fathers:
        • 22.72% or 378,000 out of separated single parents.
      • Single mothers:
        • 77.28% or 1,286,000 out of separated single parents.
      • Total:
        • 15.11% or 1,664,000 of all single parents are separated. 
    • Widowed:
      • Single fathers:
        • 22.93% or 97,000 out of widowed single parents.
      • Single mothers:
        • 77.07% or 326,000 out of widowed single parents.
      • Total:
        • 3.84% or 423,000 of all single parents are widowed.

Does Education Affect Single-Parenthood Rates?

While higher education usually indicates a better quality of life, the single-parenthood rate is the lowest among those without a high school degree. 

Here are the statistics on single-parenthood by education level:

  • The following statistics show the numbers of single parents by education level: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021b)4
    • Less than a high school degree – 2,017,000 single parents.
    • High school graduate – 5,135,000 single parents.
    • Some college or associate’s degree – 4,621,000 single parents.
    • Bachelor’s degree or higher – 3,206,000 single parents.

How Much Do Single Parents Earn?

Balancing a career with childcare all by yourself isn’t easy, and the median incomes of single parents demonstrate that clearly:

  • Single parents in the U.S. had a median income of $24,252 in 2013. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021b)4
  • In 2021, the median income of single parents increased to $33,354 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021b)4
  • The following are median incomes by gender of single parents from 2013 to 2021:
    • 2013 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013)12:
      • Single mothers – $21,484
      • Single fathers – $31,387
      • Single parents – $24,252
    • 2014 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2014)13
      • Single mothers – $21,249
      • Single fathers – $33,977
      • Single parents – $24,712
    • 2015 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015)14
      • Single mothers – $22,904
      • Single fathers – $34,473
      • Single parents – $25,837
    • 2016 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2016)15
      • Single mothers – $24,215
      • Single fathers – $35,209
      • Single parents – $27,493
    • 2017 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2017)16
      • Single mothers – $26,233
      • Single fathers – $38,127
      • Single parents – $36,765
    • 2018 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2018)17
      • Single mothers – $27,389
      • Single fathers – $38,270
      • Single parents – $31,285
    • 2019 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2019)18
      • Single mothers – $28,423
      • Single fathers – $40,905
      • Single parents – $35,536
    • 2020 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020)19
      • Single mothers – $30,032
      • Single fathers – $43,986
      • Single parents – $33,354
    • 2021 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021b)4
      • Single mothers – $29,321
      • Single fathers – $43,168
      • Single parents – $33,354

Why Is Single-Parenthood Increasing?

While single-parent adoption is a constant factor, the increase in single-parent families seems to be tied to divorce rates and childbirth.

These data points illustrate the causes of single-parenthood:

  • Divorce, separation, spousal death, childbirth out of wedlock, or single-parent adoption are all causes of single-parent families. (SAGE Publications, 2014)20
  • The U.S. divorce rate in 2019 was 14.5 divorces per 1,000 married individuals. (National Center for Family & Marriage Research, 2021)21
  • There were 15.19 million widowed men and women in the U.S. in 2021. (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021c)22
  • Unmarried women gave birth at a rate of 38.6 births per 1,000 unmarried women between the age of 15 and 44 in 2020, which was a 3% decrease from 2019. (National Vital Statistics Reports, 2022)23
  • The percentage of births to unmarried women in 2020 was 40.5%, an increase of 1% from 2019. (National Vital Statistics Reports, 2022)23
  • From FY1998 to FY2020, 365,169 single parents (male and female) adopted children from U.S. foster care as single parents. (Children’s Bureau, 2020)24

The Challenges of Being a Single-Parent

No one thinks that being a single parent is easy, but few people understand just how difficult it can actually be. 

These data points paint a picture of the hardships faced by single parents:

  • Adults in single-parent households are at risk for poorer health, partly due to an increased risk of poverty. (The Triple Bind of Single-Parent Families, 2018)25
  • 27% of single parents (with no partner present) live in poverty, and 16% of cohabiting single parents live in poverty. (Pew Research Center, 2018)11
  • Single-parent poverty levels in 2021: (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021b)4
    • 6,074,000 single parents are below 100% of the U.S. poverty level. 
    • 5,409,000 single parents are between 100% and 199% of the poverty level. 
    • 7,688,000 single parents are at 200% of the poverty level or higher. 
  • 40% of American single mothers struggled to pay for food in 2018, and 27% could not afford shelter. (Gallup, 2020)26
  • Around the world, 44% of single mothers struggle to afford food. (Gallup, 2020)26
  • Single fathers are more likely to self-rate their health (11.6%) and mental health (6.2%) as poor/fair than fathers with partners. (Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 2017)27

Conclusion

While single-parent families make up a good portion of the world, they’re much more common in the U.S. and increasing. Divorce, separation, and spousal death are significant contributors, but about half of all single parents were never married in the first place. 

The median incomes of single-parent families are often below the poverty line, especially for single mothers – who make a median income that’s roughly, at minimum, $10,000 less than their male counterparts. As a result, nearly half are fighting to afford food, and about a quarter can’t afford shelter. 

While the causes and effects seem clear, it’s important to remember that solutions are relatively clear too. Social aid programs, contraceptives, child support enforcement, and a variety of other options can prevent hardship or increase the quality of life for single-parent families.

Neglecting the problem has led to an increase in juvenile crime and substandard quality of life for a large percentage of children. With this in mind, enacting solutions would seem to provide more benefit to society than ignoring the issue.

Footnotes

  1. U.S. Census Bureau, 2022. A report on single parents in the U.S. that analyzes 2021 census data from 98,000 American households.
  2. Pew Research Center, 2019. A report on the rate of single-parent households in the U.S. compared to the rest of the world using 2010 to 2018 census data from 130 countries.
  3. U.S. Census Bureau, 2021a. A report on children’s living arrangements using 2021 census data of 98,000 American households.
  4. U.S. Census Bureau, 2021b. A report on families and living arrangements in the U.S. using 2021 census data from 60,000 American households.
  5. U.S. Census Bureau, 2019. A report on percentages of single-parent households by state based on 5-year estimate data from 2,059,945 households in 2019.
  6. U.S Census Bureau, 2020. A report on custodial arrangements and child support in the U.S. using census data from 2015.
  7. Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 2009. An academic book on the developmental and behavioral factors in child development authored by Craig Garfield, Ph.D., professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine.
  8. The Heritage Foundation, 2012. An article on how single-parenting affects children, authored by Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D., founder of the Heritage Foundation.
  9. Psychology, Crime & Law, 2020. An academic article on the correlation between single-parent families and adolescent criminality that uses data from 48 studies. 
  10. Crime and Justice, 1995. A report analyzing the link between violent crime and family instability in the U.S. authored by Patrick Fagan, former William H.G. Fitzgerald fellow.
  11. Pew Research Center, 2018. A report on the common profile of unmarried parents and its recent shifts using data from a 2017 population survey of 98,000 American households.
  12. U.S. Census Bureau, 2013. A report on family living situations in the U.S. based on census data from 2013.
  13. U.S. Census Bureau, 2014. A report on family living situations in the U.S. based on census data from 2014.
  14. U.S. Census Bureau, 2015. A report on family living situations in the U.S. based on census data from 2015.
  15. U.S. Census Bureau, 2016. A report on family living situations in the U.S. based on census data from 2016.
  16. U.S. Census Bureau, 2017. A report on family living situations in the U.S. based on census data from 2017.
  17. U.S. Census Bureau, 2018. A report on family living situations in the U.S. based on census data from 2018.
  18. U.S. Census Bureau, 2019. A report on family living situations in the U.S. based on census data from 2019.
  19. U.S. Census Bureau, 2020. A report on family living situations in the U.S. based on census data from 2020.
  20. SAGE Publications, 2014. An academic book on the social history relating to single-parent families.
  21. National Center for Family & Marriage Research, 2021. A family profile report on divorce rate by age using data from a 2019 survey of 3.5 million American households.
  22. U.S. Census Bureau, 2021c. A statistic report on family composition trends in the U.S. using 2021 census data of 98,000 American households.
  23. National Vital Statistics Reports, 2022. A report on birthrates in the U.S. compiled data from 3.61 million American birth certificates.
  24. Children’s Bureau, 2020. A series of reports by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting system on adoption numbers from FY1998 to FY2020.
  25. The Triple Bind of Single-Parent Families, 2018. An academic analysis of single-parent families in 15 countries including the U.S.
  26. Gallup, 2020. A comprehensive survey of 140 countries, with a 1,000 respondent minimum from each country, aimed at gauging quality of life for single mothers.
  27. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 2017. A study on how single-parenthood affects the health of parents, conducted on 27,475 single fathers in 2017.
Dainis Graveris

Dainis Graveris

Over last 4 years Dainis have helped millions of people through his advice on this site (200+ guides and 1M+ visits/monthly). His work & advice has appeared on sites like: Healthline, Vice, Cosmopolitan, Men's Health, WomensHealthMag, MindBodyGreen & more. Read More

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