Skip Navigation
Annual Reports and Information Staff (Annual Reports)
Family Characteristics

Characteristics of Children’s Families

(Last Updated: May 2021)

In 2019, some 9 percent of children under the age of 18 lived in households in which no parent had completed high school, 26 percent lived in mother-only households, 8 percent lived in father-only households, and 16 percent were in families living in poverty.

Characteristics of children’s families are associated with children’s educational experiences and their academic achievement. Prior research has found that the risk factors of living in a household without a parent who has completed high school, living in a single-parent household, and living in poverty are associated with poor educational outcomes—including receiving low achievement scores, having to repeat a grade, and dropping out of high school.1,2 This indicator examines the prevalence of these risk factors among racial/ethnic groups and, for poverty status, among states. For more information on the relationship between family socioeconomic status and later postsecondary and employment outcomes, see The Condition of Education 2019 Spotlight indicator Young Adult Educational and Employment Outcomes by Family Socioeconomic Status.

Select a subgroup:

Select a subgroup characteristic from drop-down menu below to view relevant text and figures.

Figure 1. Percentage distribution of children under age 18, by parents’ highest level of educational attainment: 2010 and 2019
Figure 1. Percentage distribution of children under age 18, by parents’ highest level of educational attainment: 2010 and 2019

1 Includes parents who completed high school through equivalency programs, such as a GED program.

NOTE: Includes only children under age 18 who resided with at least one of their parents (including an adoptive or stepparent; excluding a foster parent). Parents’ highest level of educational attainment is the highest level of education attained by any parent residing in the same household as the child. Parents include adoptive and stepparents but exclude parents not residing in the same household as their child. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2010 and 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 104.70.

Figure 2. Percentage distribution of children under age 18, by child’s race/ethnicity and parents' highest level of educational attainment: 2019
Figure 2. Percentage distribution of children under age 18, by child’s race/ethnicity and parents' highest level of educational attainment: 2019

1 Includes parents who completed high school through equivalency programs, such as a GED program.

NOTE: Includes only children under age 18 who resided with at least one of their parents (including an adoptive or stepparent; excluding a foster parent). Parents’ highest level of educational attainment is the highest level of education attained by any parent residing in the same household as the child. Parents include adoptive and stepparents but exclude parents not residing in the same household as their child. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 104.70.

Figure 3. Percentage distribution of children under age 18, by child’s race/ethnicity and family structure: 2019
Figure 3. Percentage distribution of children under age 18, by child’s race/ethnicity and family structure: 2019

1 Includes respondents who wrote in some other race that was not included as an option on the questionnaire.

NOTE: Data do not include foster children, children in unrelated subfamilies, children living in group quarters, and children who were reported as the householder or spouse of the householder. A “mother-only household” has a female householder, with no spouse present (i.e., the householder is unmarried or the spouse is not in the household), while a “father-only household” has a male householder, with no spouse present. Includes all children who live either with their parent(s) or with a householder to whom they are related by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder). Children are classified by their parents’ marital status or, if no parents are present in the household, by the marital status of the householder who is related to the children. The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data. Detail does not sum to 100 percent because the “All other children” category is not reported.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 102.20.

Figure 4. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by child’s race/ethnicity: 2010 and 2019
Figure 4. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by child’s race/ethnicity: 2010 and 2019

1 Includes respondents who wrote in some other race that was not included as an option on the questionnaire.

NOTE: The measure of child poverty includes all children who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder). The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit. For additional information about poverty status, see https://www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/poverty/guidance/poverty-measures.html. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2010 and 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 102.60.

Figure 5. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by child’s race/ethnicity and parents’ highest level of educational attainment: 2019
Figure 5. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by child’s race/ethnicity and parents’ highest level of educational attainment: 2019

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.

1 Includes respondents who wrote in some other race that was not included as an option on the questionnaire.

2 Includes parents who completed high school through equivalency programs, such as a GED program.

NOTE: Includes only children under age 18 who resided with at least one of their parents (including an adoptive or stepparent; excluding a foster parent). Parents’ highest level of educational attainment is the highest level of education attained by any parent residing in the same household as the child. Parents include adoptive and stepparents but exclude parents not residing in the same household as their child. The measure of child poverty includes children who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder). The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit. For additional information about poverty status, see https://www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/poverty/guidance/poverty-measures.html. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 102.62.

Figure 6. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by child’s race/ethnicity and family structure: 2019
Figure 6. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by child’s race/ethnicity and family structure: 2019

! Interpret data with caution. The coefficient of variation (CV) for this estimate is between 30 and 50 percent.

1 Includes respondents who wrote in some other race that was not included as an option on the questionnaire.

NOTE: A “mother-only household” has a female householder, with no spouse present (i.e., the householder is unmarried or their spouse is not in the household), while a “father-only household” has a male householder, with no spouse present. Includes all children who live either with their parent(s) or with a householder to whom they are related by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder). Children are classified by their parents’ marital status or, if no parents are present in the household, by the marital status of the householder who is related to the children. The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit. For additional information about poverty status, see https://www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/poverty/guidance/poverty-measures.html. Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 102.60.

Figure 7. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by family structure: 2010 and 2019
Figure 7. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by family structure: 2010 and 2019

NOTE: A “mother-only household” has a female householder, with no spouse present (i.e., the householder is unmarried or their spouse is not in the household), while a “father-only household” has a male householder, with no spouse present. Includes all children who live either with their parent(s) or with a householder to whom they are related by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder). Children are classified by their parents’ marital status or, if no parents are present in the household, by the marital status of the householder who is related to the children. The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit. For additional information about poverty status, see https://www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/poverty/guidance/poverty-measures.html.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2010 and 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 102.60.

Figure 8. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by state and comparison with the national average: 2019
Figure 8. Percentage of children under age 18 in families living in poverty, by state and comparison with the national average: 2019

NOTE: The measure of child poverty includes all children who are related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder). The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit. For additional information about poverty status, see https://www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/poverty/guidance/poverty-measures.html.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey (ACS), 2019. See Digest of Education Statistics 2020, table 102.40.


1 Pungello, E.P., Kainz, K., Burchinal, M., Wasik, B.H., Sparling, J.J., Ramey, C.T., and Campbell, F.A. (2010, February). Early Educational Intervention, Early Cumulative Risk, and the Early Home Environment as Predictors of Young Adult Outcomes Within a High-Risk Sample. Child Development, 81(1): 410–426. Retrieved January 8, 2021, from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01403.x/full.

2 Ross, T., Kena, G., Rathbun, A., KewalRamani, A., Zhang, J., Kristapovich, P., and Manning, E. (2012). Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study (NCES 2012-046). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved January 8, 2021, from https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2012046.

3 Includes parents who completed high school through equivalency programs, such as a GED program.

4 Includes parents who had completed professional degrees.

5 Although the percentage of children living in households in which the highest level of education attained by either parent was an associate’s degree was also higher in 2019 than in 2010 (10.1 vs. 9.7 percent), both percentages round to 10 percent.

6 A “mother-only household” has a female householder, with no spouse present (i.e., the householder is unmarried or the spouse is not in the household), while a “father-only household” has a male householder, with no spouse present. Includes all children who live either with their parent(s) or with a householder to whom they are related by birth, marriage, or adoption (except a child who is the spouse of the householder). Children are classified by their parents’ marital status or, if no parents are present in the household, by the marital status of the householder who is related to the children. The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit. Foster children, children in unrelated subfamilies, children living in group quarters, and children who were reported as the householder or spouse of the householder are not included in this analysis.

7 In this indicator, data on household income and the number of people living in the household are combined with the poverty threshold, published by the Census Bureau, to determine the poverty status of children. A household includes all families in which children are related to the householder by birth or adoption, or through marriage. The householder is the person (or one of the people) who owns or rents (maintains) the housing unit. In 2019, the poverty threshold for a family of four with two related children under 18 years old was $25,926. For a more detailed breakdown of the 2019 poverty rate, refer to this table.

Supplemental Information

Children Living in Poverty [Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups]
Children’s Living Arrangements [Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups]
Disparities in Educational Outcomes Among Male Youth [The Condition of Education 2015 Spotlight]
Snapshot: Children Living in Poverty for Racial/Ethnic Subgroups [Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups]
CLOSE
Table 102.20 (Digest 2020): Number and percentage distribution of children under age 18 and under age 6, by living arrangement, race/ethnicity, and selected racial/ethnic subgroups: 2019;
Table 102.40 (Digest 2020): Poverty rates for all persons and poverty status of related children under age 18, by region and state: Selected years, 1990 through 2019;
Table 102.60 (Digest 2020) : Number and percentage of related children under age 18 living in poverty, by family structure, race/ethnicity, and selected racial/ethnic subgroups: 2010 and 2019;
Table 102.62 (Digest 2020): Percentage of children under age 18 living in poverty, by parents' highest level of educational attainment, child's race/ethnicity, and selected racial/ethnic subgroups: 2010 and 2019;
Table 104.70 (Digest 2020): Number and percentage distribution of children under age 18, by parents' highest level of educational attainment, child's age group and race/ethnicity, and household type: 2010 and 2019
CLOSE