Children and Families
Single-Parent Families by Race/Ethnicity

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Single-Parent Families by Race/Ethnicity, 2016-20

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?

Single-parent families may experience more stress and economic strain than dual-parent households with two incomes. Children in these families can be at risk of poorer health and educational outcomes. However, children may also have opportunities to build resilience and experience a larger community through the support of extended family and friends. Racial and ethnic disparities in rates of single parenthood have several possible causes, including current and historic policies that have placed particular strain on African American families, as well as broader changes in social attitudes about gender roles, marriage and single parenthood.

How is the region doing?

In 2016-20, the share of single-parent families in the MetroWest region was highest among Black or African American (56%) and Hispanic families (52%). Rates were substantially lower among white (29%) and Asian (18%) families. Because white families make up a larger share of the overall population, however, there was a far higher number of white single-parent families in the region (85,800) compared to African American, Hispanic and Asian single-parent families (15,000, 19,600 and 8,600, respectively). Rates for all racial and ethnic groups increased since 2000, with the largest increase among Hispanic families (6 percentage points).

Compared to MetroWest, Massachusetts had higher shares of single-parent families across all racial and ethnic groups, but especially among Hispanic and African American families (8 and 6 points, respectively, higher for both groups). The national percentage of single-parent families was higher for Asian (2 points), white (5 points) and African American families (10 points), but lower among Hispanic families (10 points).

Among the region's counties, Worcester County had the highest shares of single-parent families among Hispanic (61%) and white (37%) families, while the rate for African American families was highest in Norfolk (58%). Sample sizes for individual communities in the region were too small to report reliably.

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.

Single-Parent Families by Race/Ethnicity, 2016-20
AsianBlack or African AmericanHispanicWhite
United States20%66%42%34%
Massachusetts20%62%60%35%
Region18%56%52%29%
Middlesex County19%55%49%27%
Norfolk County20%58%38%*25%
Worcester County11%*54%61%37%
Acton town, Middlesex County7%***96%***0%***22%*
Ashland town, Middlesex County0%***100%***0%***23%**
Bedford town, Middlesex County25%***0%***28%***28%**
Bellingham town, Norfolk County0%***0%***0%***39%**
Boxborough town, Middlesex County14%***0%***0%***15%***
Carlisle town, Middlesex County0%***0%***100%***21%***
Concord town, Middlesex County0%***0%***59%***18%**
Dedham town, Norfolk County53%***51%***53%***18%*
Dover town, Norfolk County0%***0%***48%***22%**
Framingham city, Middlesex County21%***65%**70%*31%
Franklin town, Norfolk County9%***76%***0%***24%*
Groton town, Middlesex County31%***0%***0%***24%**
Harvard town, Worcester County0%***0%***0%***16%***
Holliston town, Middlesex County0%***0%***19%***13%**
Hopkinton town, Middlesex County4%***0%***40%***13%**
Hudson town, Middlesex County0%***0%***58%***27%**
Lexington town, Middlesex County12%**30%***0%***12%*
Lincoln town, Middlesex County21%***0%***0%***6%***
Littleton town, Middlesex County0%***0%***0%***24%**
Marlborough city, Middlesex County31%***37%***23%***25%*
Maynard town, Middlesex County0%***0%***0%***21%**
Medfield town, Norfolk County27%***39%***0%***12%*
Medway town, Norfolk County0%***0%***0%***22%**
Milford town, Worcester County0%***56%***25%***36%*
Millis town, Norfolk County0%***100%***68%***17%***
Natick town, Middlesex County18%***0%***0%***24%*
Needham town, Norfolk County11%***70%***17%***16%**
Sherborn town, Middlesex County0%***100%***0%***5%***
Southborough town, Worcester County13%***100%***29%***10%***
Stow town, Middlesex County0%***0%***0%***19%***
Sudbury town, Middlesex County0%***0%***25%***15%*
Walpole town, Norfolk County0%***53%***48%***18%*
Waltham city, Middlesex County4%***67%**45%*27%*
Wayland town, Middlesex County4%***0%***14%***13%**
Wellesley town, Norfolk County10%***0%***40%***20%*
Westborough town, Worcester County4%***0%***22%***28%**
Westford town, Middlesex County6%***0%***63%***22%*
Weston town, Middlesex County0%***72%***33%***15%***
Westwood town, Norfolk County24%***0%***0%***23%*

Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Notes: Multiyear results are from rolling American Community Survey. * Margin of error between 20% & 35% of estimate; ** margin of error between 35% & 50%; *** margin of error greater than 50%. 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.




Number of Single-Parent Families by Race/Ethnicity, 2016-20
AsianBlack or African AmericanHispanicWhite
United States472,9943,690,8903,421,0329,298,950
Massachusetts12,80045,89071,492209,711
Region8,59514,95019,63885,763
Middlesex County5,3496,2618,64338,110
Norfolk County2,5205,3281,789*15,884
Worcester County726*3,3619,20631,769
Acton town, Middlesex County76***270***0***532*
Ashland town, Middlesex County0***146***0***368**
Bedford town, Middlesex County116***0***12***434**
Bellingham town, Norfolk County0***0***0***808**
Boxborough town, Middlesex County24***0***0***68***
Carlisle town, Middlesex County0***0***16***127***
Concord town, Middlesex County0***0***32***380**
Dedham town, Norfolk County76***155***282***414*
Dover town, Norfolk County0***0***46***195**
Framingham city, Middlesex County120***345**1,546*1,895
Franklin town, Norfolk County38***156***0***1,015*
Groton town, Middlesex County38***0***0***355**
Harvard town, Worcester County0***0***0***108***
Holliston town, Middlesex County0***0***6***246**
Hopkinton town, Middlesex County20***0***38***308**
Hudson town, Middlesex County0***0***99***604**
Lexington town, Middlesex County267**24***0***355*
Lincoln town, Middlesex County8***0***0***53***
Littleton town, Middlesex County0***0***0***323**
Marlborough city, Middlesex County84***130***157***835*
Maynard town, Middlesex County0***0***0***299**
Medfield town, Norfolk County46***16***0***228*
Medway town, Norfolk County0***0***0***374**
Milford town, Worcester County0***94***158***1,021*
Millis town, Norfolk County0***76***28***147***
Natick town, Middlesex County167***0***0***882*
Needham town, Norfolk County63***194***21***696**
Sherborn town, Middlesex County0***22***0***23***
Southborough town, Worcester County50***14***20***117***
Stow town, Middlesex County0***0***0***180***
Sudbury town, Middlesex County0***0***26***377*
Walpole town, Norfolk County0***62***154***559*
Waltham city, Middlesex County16***342**543*976*
Wayland town, Middlesex County10***0***20***241**
Wellesley town, Norfolk County52***0***61***648*
Westborough town, Worcester County44***0***44***483**
Westford town, Middlesex County70***0***80***614*
Weston town, Middlesex County0***26***14***165***
Westwood town, Norfolk County52***0***0***439*

Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Notes: Multiyear results are from rolling American Community Survey. * Margin of error between 20% & 35% of estimate; ** margin of error between 35% & 50%; *** margin of error greater than 50%. 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.




INDICATORS REGIONAL TREND
Early Prenatal Care by Mother's Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Children Living in Poverty Maintaining
Children Living in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Single-Parent Families Increasing
Single-Parent Families by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Disengaged Youth Decreasing
Reports of Domestic Violence Maintaining
Arts, Entertainment and Recreation Establishments Increasing
Households Without Vehicles Maintaining
Means of Transportation to Work Not Applicable
Households With Internet Access Not Applicable
Voter Participation Rate Increasing
Average Charitable Contribution Maintaining
People Without Health Insurance Decreasing
Drug Poisoning Mortality Rate Increasing
Crimes Against People Decreasing
Incarceration Rates, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Change in Total Population Increasing
Change in Population by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Foreign-Born Population Increasing
Language Diversity Increasing
Population by Age Not Applicable
Change in Population by Age/Gender Not Applicable
Seniors Living Alone Decreasing
People with Disabilities Maintaining
Change in Total Jobs by Sector Not Applicable
Unemployment Rate Increasing
Business Ownership by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Unemployment Rate by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Share of Workers who are Professionals, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Average Salary by Sector Not Applicable
High-Tech Jobs Maintaining
Female to Male Earnings Ratio Maintaining
Prekindergarten Participation Not Applicable
School Spending Per Student Maintaining
Student Performance on Grade 3 English, by Student Group Not Applicable
Student Performance on Grade 8 Math by Student Group Not Applicable
Chronically Absent Students Increasing
High School Cohort Graduation Rate by Student Group Not Applicable
Education Levels of Adults Not Applicable
Education Levels of Adults, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
College Admission Rate, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
People Living in Poverty Increasing
People Living in Poverty, by Education Level Not Applicable
People Living in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Households Receiving Temporary Assistance Maintaining
Participation in Food Assistance by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Median Household Income Maintaining
Median Household Income, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Living Wage Not Applicable
80/20 Income Ratio Maintaining
Access to Financial Services, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Homeownership Rates Increasing
Homeownership Rates, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Cost of Homeownership Increasing
Cost of Homeownership, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Cost of Rent Not Applicable
Cost of Rent, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Homelessness Increasing
Early Prenatal Care by Mother's Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Children Living in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Single-Parent Families by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Incarceration Rates, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Change in Population by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Business Ownership by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Unemployment Rate by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Share of Workers who are Professionals, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Student Performance on Grade 3 English, by Student Group Not Applicable
Student Performance on Grade 8 Math by Student Group Not Applicable
High School Cohort Graduation Rate by Student Group Not Applicable
Education Levels of Adults, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
College Admission Rate, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
People Living in Poverty, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Participation in Food Assistance by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Median Household Income, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Access to Financial Services, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Homeownership Rates, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Cost of Homeownership, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable
Cost of Rent, by Race/Ethnicity Not Applicable


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