Household Complexity and Change among Children in the United States, 1984 to 2010

Kristin L. Perkins

Sociological Science, December 6, 2017
DOI 10.15195/v4.a29

Research on family instability typically measures changes in coresident parents, but children also experience changes among other household members. The likelihood of experiencing these changes differs by race and ethnicity, family structure, and cohort. Analyses of the Survey of Income and Program Participation show that the cumulative proportion of children who gain or lose a household member is much higher than the proportion of children whose father or mother leaves the household. The share of children who experience a change in household composition involving a nonparent, nonsibling relative is greater among blacks and Hispanics than among whites and greater among children in single-parent families than in two-parent families. Overall, fewer children in the 1990s and 2000s experienced changes in household composition than in the 1980s. This study advances a broader definition of family instability by including others present in children’s households, better incorporating the changes in developmental environments children experience.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Kristin L. Perkins: Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University
Email: kristin_perkins@harvard.edu

Acknowledgements: I gratefully acknowledge Kathryn Edin, Paula Fomby, Alexandra Killewald, Robert J. Sampson, H. Luke Shaefer, Laura Tach, Bruce Western, and Alix S. Winter for their helpful comments and feedback. J. Bart Stykes generously shared Stata code at the outset of this project and Matthew Arck helped with formatting. Any errors are my own. This research has been supported by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and a Harvard University grant from the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality & Social Policy. I also benefited from attending a workshop on the use of the SIPP at the University of Michigan as part of the NSF-Census Research Network (NCRN, NSF SES-1131500).

  • Citation: Perkins, Kristin L. 2017. “Household Complexity and Change among Children in the United States, 1984 to 2010.” Sociological Science 4: 701-724.
  • Received: September 21, 2017
  • Accepted: October 26, 2017
  • Editors: Jesper Sørensen, Stephen L. Morgan
  • DOI: 10.15195/v4.a29

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