The percentage of single-parent families with children, as a percent of all families with children under 18, by race/ethnicity.
Children in single-parent families are far more likely to grow up in low-income households than those living with two parents. They are at greater risk of low academic performance and behavioral problems and may experience parental conflict and residential instability as well.
The share of single-parent families increased for all racial and ethnic groups except Black or African American families, which remained constant at 57% in 2000 and 2015-19. The share of white families headed by single parents increased most, from 30% to 37%, followed by increases for Hispanic families (from 58% to 63%) and Asian families (from 22% to 27%). While Hispanic families had a larger percentage of single parents in 2015-19, there was a far larger number of white single-parent families (27,800 compared to 17,300 Hispanic families).
Compared to Essex in 2015-19, Massachusetts had slightly smaller shares of single parents among white (34%) and Hispanic (60%) families. The percentage of single-parent African American families was higher at the state level (63%), while the Asian share was quite a bit lower (19%). The U.S. had a substantially smaller percentage of single parents among Hispanic families (42%) than Essex, but a higher share among African American families (66%).
Essex County generally had higher rates of single-parent families among the various groups than the comparison counties. For example, while 37% of white families were headed by single parents in Essex County, the rates were 28% in Lake, IL, 27% in Middlesex, MA and 25% in Westchester, NY. Essex County's rates for Hispanic and Asian families were also higher than all three comparison counties. The rate for African American families in Essex was more in line with Middlesex, and lower than in Lake (64%) and Westchester (65%).
Research on family structure points to a variety of explanations about why more children of color are growing up in single parent households. These include high incarceration rates of men of color, economic strain, changing attitudes about marriage and the dismantling of Black families during slavery and its enduring influence on family structure.
The multiyear figures are from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The bureau combined 5 years of responses to the survey to provide estimates for smaller geographic areas and increase the precision of its estimates. However, because the information came from a survey, the samples responding to the survey were not always large enough to produce reliable results, especially in small geographic areas. CGR has noted on data tables the estimates with relatively large margins of error. Estimates with three asterisks have the largest margins, plus or minus 50% or more of the estimate. Two asterisks mean plus or minus 35%-50%, and one asterisk means plus or minus 20%-35%. For all estimates, the confidence level is 90%, meaning there is 90% probability the true value (if the whole population were surveyed) would be within the margin of error (or confidence interval). The survey provides data on characteristics of the population that used to be collected only during the decennial census. Data for this indicator are released annually in December.
The Census Bureau asks people to identify their race (white, African-American, etc.) separate from their ethnicity (Hispanic or non-Hispanic). So the totals for these categories cannot be added together, as people show up in both a racial and ethnic group.