From 'Leave It to Beaver' to 'Modern Family'

Kaid Benfield takes a moment to reflect on the changing nature of the American household and how it will shape our cities in the coming years.

2 minute read

November 22, 2012, 7:00 AM PST

By Ryan Lue

1870 Ridley Thanksgiving NY

Wikimedia Commons / Wikimedia

Ah, the holiday season – a time to gather around the table with loved ones, to keep old traditions alive, to make new ones as our families change and grow. Traditionally, the nuclear family has been painted as an anchor for these traditions, but Benfield poses some challenging questions for that particular, conventional view of American society.

"Does our storytale version of family life resemble real family life? Does it exclude people who are not part of or close to their families? Is the concept of 'family' changing, with implications for the planning profession? The answers are, of course, seldom; usually; and definitely."

According to recent reports from the U.S. Census Bureau, the American household is becoming an increasingly heterogeneous thing. Households composed of individuals, unmarried couples, and never-married single mothers are all on the rise, as two-parent families (especially those with working fathers and stay-at-home mothers) have followed a steady decline since the 1960s.

That's not to say, of course, that two-parent families have fallen into obscurity; they still represent a solid majority of all family households.

"Rather, we have a diverse and changing array of household types and circumstances that smart planners and businesses will seek to accommodate. The census data show that the growing parts of the housing market are nonfamily households, smaller households including people living alone, unmarried couples, single-parent households with kids, and older households."

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