What does this measure?
The percentage of single-parent families with children, as a percent of all families with children under 18, and broken down by the sex of the parent.
Why is this important?
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.
How is our county doing?
In Essex County, 35% of all families with children under 18 were headed by single parents; of these, 27% headed by a female and 8% headed by a male in 2017-21. These proportions increased slightly since 2000. In raw numbers, Essex saw an increase of about 6,300 single parents during this period. In 2017-21, the number of female-headed single-parent families, 25,400, was about three and a half times as high as the number of male-headed single-parent families, 7,600. The County's rates were similar to the state and nation.
How do we compare to similar counties?
In 2017-21, there were smaller shares of single-parent families with children in Middlesex, MA (23%), and Lake, IL and Westchester, NY (both at 25%) than in Essex. In particular, there were smaller percentages of single-parent families headed by females in all three comparison counties (between 17% and 19%).
Notes about the data
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.