This Is What the Modern American Family Will Look Like by 2050
Breaking news: Millennials are growing up.
As recent studies indicate, members of our generation are starting to "settle down" and have babies (despite our parents' unfounded concern we never would). Yet even though millennials are increasingly building their own families, that doesn't mean they're adopting previous generations' traditional family values.
Our generation is more diverse, more educated, and more open-minded than the generation that came before us, and our home lives increasingly reflect that viewpoint. That means that, while many of us might not mate for life at age 22 or have kids while we're young enough to chase after them (or, like, ever), we're still having families. They just look a little different than they did before. That's why we decided to compile six ways the American family is expected to change by 2050.
1) Our families will be even more diverse than they are now.
Over the past few decades, the United States has slowly been becoming more ethnically and racially diverse—and that trend won't end with our generation. A Pew Research Center poll found that almost all Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 approve of interracial relationships, and marriage between mixed-race couples is at an all-time high. The U.S. Census Bureau also estimates that approximately 86 million (!) Americans will be foreign-born by 2050, constituting approximately one-fifth of the total population.
2) There will be more single-parent households.
The birth rate among unwed mothers has recently gone down for the first time in decades. But the growing percentage of adults who are cool with people having children outside of marriage (58% of Americans, according to Gallup) indicates that single parenthood might not be as stigmatized as it traditionally has been.
The number of single-parent households has steadily tripled since the 1960s, but more lenient social mores aren't the only thing that have allowed rates of single parenthood to blossom. In-vitro fertilization and other reproductive technologies, which are only becoming more common, will allow more and more people to become parents — with or without a partner.
3) It'll be common to have more than two parents.
Wider acceptance of same-sex couples has helped shake up the American family in several crucial ways, including the ways we understand parenthood. IVF, surrogacy and adoption among same-sex parents. All have contributed to revolutionizing our idea of what a family should look like, and it's no longer unheard of for, say, a child to be raised by two moms and spend weekends with a father who donated sperm. (Hey, in California, kids can legally have up to four parents listed on their birth certificates.)
Pew estimates that fewer than half of American children currently live in "traditional" two-parent families. That can be attributed in part to the rise of single parenthood and same-sex parenting, but also in part to divorce. While it's actually a myth that the divorce rate is on the rise, divorce is still incredibly common, as is remarriage.
4) More kids will have working moms — as well as stay-at-home dads.
The number of women in the workforce has risen dramatically over the past several decades, but those workers aren't checking out once they have kids. Approximately 70% of mothers with children under age 18 make up a significant portion of the labor force, and that number has only increased.
So too has the number of men who stay home once they have kids. Stay-at-home dads have become much more common over the course of millennials' lives, with the number of fathers who serve as primary caretakers increasing by nearly a million from 1989 to 2012. That surge is likely to continue as it becomes increasingly acceptable for women and mothers to act as primary breadwinners while fathers look after the kids.
5) People won't have as many children.
The average American family size has included (approximately) two children for quite some time, but delayed parenthood and changing social norms are pushing the numbers down even further. Millennials are already having fewer kids than previous generations, and people are becoming more comfortable not having them at all. The prevalence of large families will only continue to drop, and by 2050, the percentage of American families with four kids or more is estimated to be close to zero.
6) Families will probably include robots.
For decades, people have speculated that robots will eventually take over the world and render humans obsolete. While those fears are likely unfounded, it's not unlikely artificial intelligence will have made significant headway by 2050. A recent Pew report predicted that robots and artificial intelligence will be included in "wide segments of daily life" by the year 2025, potentially serving as everything from sex partners to babysitters.
While it remains to be seen whether human-robot partnerships make for sustainable families, the machines seem to be doing alright on their own: Robots are already figuring out how to make clones of themselves, so who knows? Maybe by 2050, the American family won't even be human anymore.