Family Type and Parental Employment - Children (age 6-17) by family type and labor force status in Pennsylvania

Change Indicator

Why This Indicator Matters

Family type or structure describes the configuration of people who live together in one household and are typically related by blood, marriage, or adoption.[1] While the nuclear family phenomenon, featuring biological parents living and raising their children together in one household, is often viewed as the dominant family structure, there are many other family types commonly present in the United States.[2] This includes single parents, either divorced, widowed, or never married; foster families, which involves the state placing children with relative or nonrelative adults; blended families, comprised of children from previous relationships; or families consisting of same-sex parents. Children have been found to prosper across all family forms, with very little evidence of socioemotional trajectories differing between structures.[3] This said, instability in family structure, characterized by regular changes in residence and family configuration, has been found to have potential negative effects on behavioral and cognitive outcomes.[4]

Parental labor force status has much more significant impacts on the development and long-term outcomes of children. Extensive research findings suggest that parental unemployment puts children at considerable risk for academic failure, psychological strain, and reduced prospects for success later in life.[5] Parental unemployment has also been found to have a direct negative effect on the physical and mental health, long-term happiness, and future earnings of everyone in the household.[6] This suggests that family structure plays a substantial role in these effects, as children in a single parent household are more likely to feel the burdens associated with unemployment than a larger household with multiple earners. Measurements of family type by parental employment can be used to predict certain child development outcomes in addition to future successes.



[1] Blakeley, S. & Nowaczyk, J. (2021). Family Structure in the U.S. Study.com. https://study.com/learn/lesson/family-structure-different-types-of-family-us.html

[2] American Academy of Pediatrics, Healthy Children. (2015). The “Perfect” Family. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/family-dynamics/Pages/The-Perfect-Family.aspx

[3] Bzostek, S. & Berger, L. (2017). Family Structure Experiences and Child Socioemotional Development During the First Nine Years of Life: Examining Heterogeneity by Family Structure at Birth. Demography, 54(2), 513–540. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-017-0563-5

[4]  Fomby, P. & Cherlin, A. (2007). Family Instability and Child Well-Being. American Sociological Review, 72(2), 181–204. https://doi.org/10.1177/000312240707200203

[5] DeParle, J. (2020). When Parents Lose Their Jobs, Their Child Also Suffer. But Sometimes There’s a Consolation. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/31/us/politics/unemployment-parents-children-coronavirus.html

[6] Nikolova, M. & Nikolaev, B. (2018). How Having Unemployed Parents Effects Children’s Future Well-Being. Brookings Institute. https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2018/07/13/how-having-unemployed-parents-affects-childrens-future-well-being/

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Family Type and Parental Employment - Children (age 6-17) by family type and labor force status

Data Provided By

Definitions: Total number of children age 6 through 17 in families by family type and labor force status of parent(s) where employment status and family type are known.

Data Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2000 Census (Table P46)

(2005-2013) U.S Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 3-year estimates (B23008)

(2014 - current) U.S. Bureau of the Census, American Community Survey, 1-year estimate (B23008)

Footnotes: (2005 - 2013) The six smallest counties are not included in the ACS – Cameron, Forest, Fulton, Montour, Potter, and Sullivan.  The percents used for those counties are small area (PUMA) figures.

(2014 - current) Single year estimates should not be compared to prior 3-year estimates. The 27 smallest counties are not included in the ACS - Bedford, Bradford, Cameron, Clarion, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Fulton, Greene, Huntingdon, Jefferson, Juniata, McKean, Mifflin, Montour, Perry, Pike, Potter, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Wayne and Wyoming.

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Census Bureau did not release 2020 1-year estimates.

Updated October 2022.