WASHINGTON - For the first time, single adults outnumber couples with children as the most common type of household in the United States, according to new figures from the 2000 Census.
In 1990, couples with children were the most prevalent family type, followed by singles, childless couples and single parents.
Previous studies showed that singles had moved ahead of married-with-children households. But the Census Bureau analysis, released Tuesday, is the first to divide homes by whether they have partners of any sort, regardless of marital status. Previous examinations put families in one category and nonfamilies, including unmarried couples, in another.
The report, based on new tabulations of the 2000 and 1990 tallies, found that solo households grew 21 percent over the decade, while the next-largest category, married couples without children, grew by only 11 percent. As a result, couples with children - married or unmarried - now make up 31.3 percent of all homes. Individuals make up 31.6 percent.
Michael Carline, an economist with the National Association of Home Builders, said unmarried people "are probably not just thinking of it as a transitional arrangement. That makes them more likely to buy a house."
For the first time, the Census Bureau also analyzed whether households included partners, regardless of marital status. It found 60 million households in which the person responding to the Census survey lived with a partner, and 46 million households without.
The new analysis puts 3.3 million homes that were previously considered "non-family households" into the new "partner household" category. It also shows that 15 million households in which there were family members - children or parents, for example - did not have a partner present.
The number of households reporting an unmarried partner rose 72 percent between 1990 and 2000. Whether that reflects an increase in committed unmarried relationships or an increased willingness to admit to a partner's presence cannot be determined from the Census figures, said demographer Bill Hobbes III.