What does this measure?
The percentage of single-parent families with children, as a percent of all families with children under 18, by race/ethnicity.
Why is this important?
Children in single-parent families are far more likely to grow up in low-income households than those living with two parents. They are at greater risk of low academic performance and behavioral problems and may experience parental conflict and residential instability as well.
How is our county doing?
The share of single-parent-headed Hispanic and white families in Essex County each increased from 2000 to 2017-21. The percentage of single-parent Hispanic families increased from 58% to 63% and the percentage of single-parent white families increased from 30% to 35%. The shares of Asian and Black or African American families remained relatively unchanged from 2000 to 2017-21, with a slight decrease from 22% to 21% for Asian families and a slight increase from 57% to 58% for African American families. While Hispanic families had the largest percentage of single parents in 2017-21, there was a far larger absolute number of white single-parent families (26,000 compared to 19,800 Hispanic families).
Compared to Essex in 2017-21, Massachusetts had slightly smaller shares of single parents among white (34%) and Hispanic (59%) families. The percentage of single-parent African American families was higher at the state level (62%), while the Asian share was slightly lower (20%). The U.S. had a substantially smaller percentage of single parents among Hispanic families (43%) than Essex, but a higher share among African American families (66%).
How do we compare to similar counties?
Essex County generally had higher rates of single-parent families among the various groups than the comparison counties, with the exception of African American families in Middlesex, MA. For example, while 35% of white families were headed by single parents in Essex County, the rates were 26% in Middlesex, IL, 28% in Lake County, IL and 24% in Westchester, NY. Essex County's rates for Hispanic and Asian families were also higher than all three comparison counties. The rate for African American families in Essex was higher than Middlesex (55%), and lower than in Lake (66%) and Westchester (64%).
Why do these disparities exist?
Research on family structure points to a variety of explanations about why more children of color are growing up in single parent households. These include high incarceration rates of men of color, economic strain, changing attitudes about marriage and the dismantling of Black families during slavery and its enduring influence on family structure.
Notes about the data
The multiyear figures are from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey. The bureau combined 5 years of responses to the survey to provide estimates for smaller geographic areas and increase the precision of its estimates. However, because the information came from a survey, the samples responding to the survey were not always large enough to produce reliable results, especially in small geographic areas. CGR has noted on data tables the estimates with relatively large margins of error. Estimates with three asterisks have the largest margins, plus or minus 50% or more of the estimate. Two asterisks mean plus or minus 35%-50%, and one asterisk means plus or minus 20%-35%. For all estimates, the confidence level is 90%, meaning there is 90% probability the true value (if the whole population were surveyed) would be within the margin of error (or confidence interval). The survey provides data on characteristics of the population that used to be collected only during the decennial census. Data for this indicator are released annually in December.
The Census Bureau asks people to identify their race (white, African-American, etc.) separate from their ethnicity (Hispanic or non-Hispanic). So the totals for these categories cannot be added together, as people show up in both a racial and ethnic group.