Childless Families Outnumber Families With Children
by James L. Morrison

[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in On the Horizon, 1992, 1(3), 7. It is posted here with permission from Jossey Bass Publishers.]

For the first time in decades there are more American families without children in the home than with them. In 1991, 51.1% of family households had no one under 18. The increase is due to the aging of the population and to more and more couples deciding not to have children. Families without children at home have different interests, more free time and often greater financial resources than couples with children. Thus, children's issues tend to become less important to this group. This change in the relative number of childless families may signal a further reduction in the political influence of children's issues. Around the country, the number of senior restricted communities is steadily increasing. In many of these areas, school taxes have been eliminated. In others, it is difficult to pass school bond issues. This places an increased financial burden on a smaller proportion of the community to maintain the quality of children's programs. Compounding this problem is the tight economy and a belief that more public money should not be spent on anything, especially children's programs. The change in the proportion of childless families may help explain why social security and Medicare have lifted many elderly out of poverty, while cuts in welfare and Medicaid have helped make one in five children poor. [Stone, A. (1992, May 8) Family 'shift': Most households have no children, USA Today, 10A.]


Although the Clinton administration focuses a great deal of attention on children, the shift in the proportion of childless families and the corresponding reduction in political influence of children's issues may affect colleges and universities as well as public schools. Achievements such as papers published, numbers of students educated, or improvement in the quality of education may not serve as effective arguments in budget requests. Instead, colleges and universities may come under increasing pressure to document and demonstrate how their programs have a tangible effect on the community, be it economic, health, or social service related. (Too often "impact" studies focus only on the number of jobs provided by the institution and amount of money spent by students in local stores.) Institutions that can effectively demonstrate a positive impact on the community may have a much easier time acquiring the particular level of support that they need to continue their work.

All material within the HORIZON site, unless otherwise noted, may be distributed freely for educational purposes. If you do redistribute any of this material, it must retain this copyright notice and you must use appropriate citation including the URL. Also, we would appreciate your sending James L. Morrison a note as to how you are using it. HTML and design by Noel Fiser, ©2006. Page last modified: 7/1/2003 8:49:50 PM. 17774 visitors since February 2000.