In this perspectives brief, author Tony Fahey presents novel findings on how much smaller family sizes are among children in the United States today, particularly African American children, than they were fifty years ago. Using data from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series from the U.S. Census and the Current Population Survey, he reports that the average African American child was one of 6.53 siblings in 1960 and today is one of 3.18. Because smaller families may enable parents to devote more resources to each child, these trends raise the so-far unrecognized possibility that the fall in children’s family size, especially among the less well-off, may have been a positive and egalitarian transformation in their lives. The trend toward smaller families potentially offsets some of the negative effects on children of the transition from two-parent families to single-parent families. The loss of family resources caused by the absence of one parent is paired with a smaller number of siblings who need support. To better understand how family change has affected children’s well-being, the hidden story of children’s family size and how it relates to other aspects of children's changing family circumstances needs to be recognized and explored

Publication Date

Fall 10-3-2017


Carsey Perspectives No. 8


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2017. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.





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