Friday, June 24, 2011

Census Data Reveal Strong Increase in Nontraditional Households

A fascinating report, but the way the Times sought to spin it is, well, a little weird.

See Los Angeles Times, "California families are changing, U.S. Census data show":


On a leafy drive in west Los Angeles, at a newly renovated home with cathedral ceilings and a backyard pool, 4-year-old Kate Eisenpresser-Davis' friends have been known to pose an intriguing question: "Why does Kate have three mommies?"

Lisa Eisenpresser, 44, and her partner, Angela Courtin, 38, share custody of Kate with Eisenpresser's ex-partner.

When asked to describe their life, Eisenpresser and Courtin respond with the same word: "Normal." Days are spent searching for the right balance between work and home, and zigzagging through Mar Vista to meetings, school and gymnastics.

Courtin is pregnant. Kate will soon have a sister, Phoebe, conceived from Eisenpresser's egg and sperm from a donor — the same 6-foot-1 Harvard grad, who scored a 1580 on the SAT, who served as Kate's donor.

"It's almost like I'm too busy to be thinking too deeply about being gay and different," Eisenpresser said.

Maybe she shouldn't bother. According to a Times analysis of new U.S. Census figures, the Eisenpresser-Courtin-Davises are on the leading edge of change — of a steady evolution in the meaning of "family" and "home" in California.
It's not "evolution" but "erosion," but read on:
New census figures show that the percentage of Californians who live in "nuclear family" households — a married man and a woman raising their children — has dropped again over the last decade, to 23.4% of all households. That represents a 10% decline in 10 years, measured as a percentage of the state's households.

Those households, the Times analysis shows, are being supplanted by a striking spectrum of postmodern living arrangements: same-sex households, unmarried opposite-sex partners, married couples who have no children. Some forms of households that were rare just a generation ago are becoming common; the number of single-father households in California, for instance, grew by 36% between 2000 and 2010.

For centuries, "family" connoted a sprawling, messy, almost tribal identity. Industrialization, wealth and mobility allowed, even encouraged, the family unit to shrink. The term "nuclear family" didn't enter the lexicon until the boom after World War II — a suggestion that the immediate family, built on a foundation of marriage and traditional gender roles, was the nucleus of social structure, even of American morality.

That paradigm, though, began to fray even before "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" went off the air in 1966. Today, California is a stark reflection of a new dynamic: the traditional Hallmark card image is hardly obsolete, but it is the minority. And new sorts of households — blended families; bands of middle-class singles who live and vacation together; families that were once called "broken" — are increasingly the standard.
More at the link, but that's a shamefully exhuberant report. What's so great about less than one-quarter of California's households being "traditional nuclear"? Well, not so much, as the Times grudgingly concedes:
The preservation of what is viewed by many as the traditional family has long been a hot-button political issue. There is little dispute that some modern living arrangements, particularly the growth of single-parent households, often result in financial burdens and other challenges.

Ron Haskins, the co-director of the Brookings Center on Children and Families who once served as President Bush's senior advisor for welfare policy, said that children born to unmarried parents or raised in a single-family household, in particular, are more likely to be poor and to commit crimes. He said there is a national movement to promote marriage, such as marriage education requirements in some high schools.
It's interesting that the Times dropped that information so far down below the fold. But it's the key bit of information most important for social policy. Unless someone's a fanatical bigot, folks ought not disagree too much with a family like the Eisenpresser-Courtin-Davises --- they look happy, their kid loved and well cared for, and their household is apparently financially stable. (And the Eisenpresser-Courtin-Davises aren't the model for same-sex families in California, in any case. The extremist gay radical rim-station freaks are, the ones constantly in the news, ramming their gay rights agenda down the throats of average Californians, at the expense of poor and minority communities. Gay progressives are a violently selfish demographic disgrace.) The fact is almost half of households headed by a single parent live in poverty, and that's based in 2009 data. It's no doubt higher now, amid the Obama Depression. Society needs to find a way to promote healthy stable families, all around. We shouldn't downplay or ignore the worst family tragedies and denigrate the historic nuclear model by glorifying nontraditional structures with non-representative images of "cutting-edge" same-sex households.