Smart SpendingSmart Spending

No more 'typical' Americans?

An interactive site lets you look inside U.S. households. What you see might surprise you.

By doubleace Jun 22, 2011 2:26PM

This post comes from Lynn Mucken at MSN Money.


The New York Times has created a slick interactive site titled "How Many Households Are Like Yours?" that, surprisingly enough, also lets you explore the demographics of households that are not the least bit like yours.


It's a lot more interesting to see how the other half -- or in my case, the other 78.57% -- lives.


For instance, did you know that while 26.7% of American households composed of only a single male had incomes between $50,000 and $150,000, just 17.9% of single-female households did. The gender gap at work, it would seem.


However, in households with only two gay men, 53.6% had a household income between $50,000 and $150,000. For gay women, it was 56.7%. What would you make of that? 


The New York Times site uses statistics culled from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, which looks at 250,000 households annually and then puts out a five-year portrait of Americans. The latest statistics are from 2005-2009. Post continues after video.

(The American Community Survey, by the way, is unique in that it is hated both by conservatives and ACLU types. For some reason, nearly everyone is offended by being asked whether they have a toilet that flushes, although it's probably the $5,000 fine for refusing to fill out the questionaire that irritates them most.)


The NYT site lets you click to almost any household makeup -- married heterosexual couples, single women with two kids, single men living with both parents -- and then bust it down on a basis of race, income and historical trend.


Play with it for a while and you come up with little gems. For instance, the percentage of married households peaked at 23.06 -- it's 21.43% now -- in 1970. Why 1970? Wasn't that in the hippy age?


If you want to delve deeper, go to the American Community Survey site, where you can find things that make you wonder, like why do 21.3% of the people in Illinois speak a language other than English in their home, while none of the flanking states -- Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and Michigan -- report figures higher than 8.2%?

What you also will see is that although you might be in a plurality when it comes to marital status, race and income, you definitely are not typical. There is no such thing as typical anymore.


"Six years running now, according to census data, more households consist of the unmarried than the married," wrote The New York Times in an article about a family that consists of a child, mom, sperm donor and his lover.

More people seem to be deciding that the contours of the traditional nuclear family do not work for them, spawning a profusion of cobbled-together networks in need of nomenclature. Unrelated parents living together, sharing chores and child-rearing. Friends who occupy separate homes but rely on each other for holidays, health care proxies, financial support.

More on MSN Money:

Jun 22, 2011 8:15PM
There was a day when I was proud to be an American. Now I'm embarrassed. Cheating politicians, applauding immorality, throwing God out into the streets, permissive parenting, burning flags, an attitude of selfishness and entitlement, super-sized everything - as if we weren't fat enough, a declining educational system, and a preoccupation with saving every stupid whale and mouse while simultaneously murdering our unborn children. If we're not ashamed of ourselves, we should be.
Jun 22, 2011 8:40PM
Families with a married father and mother raising their kids is the most supportive environment for children to grow.  When I was growing up, that's what most families were.  I don't think it makes society better to lower our standards.
Jun 22, 2011 6:59PM
There are no more typical Americans; just typical stupid people.
Jun 22, 2011 7:18PM

Sure, there are no more typical Americans when it's free speech to cuss and disrespect a police officer, burn the American flag, and undermine the military.  When everyone is programmed to be a victim of a terrible society where the poor are fat and three kids provides a living for those who don't want to work. 


I remember an article in Time Magazine around 1977 or 1978 during the Cultural Revolution in China where Americans questioned the future of the Chinese family and they laughed.  Look at the American family now and see how many kids are causing problems because they are not in a traditional family setting.


I agree, there is no typical American and it's destroying us.

Jun 22, 2011 6:48PM

As a genealogist (family historian), who has spent nearly 50 years researching all sorts of "American" families, I can tell you that the "typical" American family was always a myth... and now that we have DNA, it only adds to the mix.


Here's a family I was just researching. An Irish woman (b 1868) immigrates to New Zealand. 2 of her sisters married brothers and emmigrated to Australia. 3 other sisters immigrate to Brockton, Massachusetts. In New Zealand, she marries a Railroad suveyor, who happened to have been born in Santa Fe, New Mexico to a French-Jewish father from New Orleans and an Hispanic-Pueblo Indian mother. They have a son in New Zealand, then moved to Melbourne, where they have another son. The husband then dies, the mother and 2 sons then move to NYC by way of Germany.


One of the sons, then became a priest, who ended up doing missionary work in China, before retiring to Chicago. The other son ultimately became a farmer in Nebraska.


Believe it or not.... such stories are not all that unusual

Jun 22, 2011 7:12PM
The way I read the article not much has changed. The golden period of the fifties never really existed except in the white middle class mind. The number of gays has remained fairly constant, they just don't hide anymore. When I was young unmarried mothers were sent off to farming relatives (Salvation Army Homes), and papers never mentioned most sex scandals, teachers were just re-assigned like priest were. Plus the age of consent was much lower. Our toys might change but people are very slow too.
Jun 22, 2011 7:22PM
Oh, come on.... What a few corrupt politicians do (and they come from both sides of the aisle) does not affect the makeup of the American family.  What does change family makeup is ethnic intermarriage, younger generations growing up with fewer prejudices, several more generations of women in the workforce (few young women now grow expecting to be supported by a male), people having fewer children by choice, and more families living in urban areas. 
Jun 22, 2011 8:39PM
I've traveled out of the country frequently for business the last ten years. Can't say Americans are very popular in other countries. There must be a reason. Just sayin'.
Jun 22, 2011 8:13PM
well,we can hope the Mayans were/are correct,  this planet needs a douche
Jun 22, 2011 9:53PM
Wow, twice as many thumbs down as thumbs up for my post that said "what's the big deal" if people want to speak their first language in their own household?!  We must have a lot of interesting people reading this article.  Look, if you moved to a different country for a better life, you should absolutely make an effort to learn and use the dominant language.  But admit that your preference in your OWN HOUSE (or whereever available, like if you needed to speak to a customer service representative on the phone, or worse yet, get through those endless automated systems) would *probably* be your first language, no?  I personally think there are more important things to get riled up about than having to press 1 for English when on the phone with a machine.  This country is a great country, and that's why so many people from other countries are coming here (part of what makes us less typical every day)...most are learning the language, but they did have a different language growing up.  And yes, many of them are contributing to our society in meaningful ways (academia, medicine, etc.).  If your only experience is with "those damn Mexicans" stealing "your" job, then I feel sorry for you.
Jun 22, 2011 10:16PM
Obey The Vons is right.  How many illegals live in one house and what is their TOTAL income per household? We will never know.  Why?  Because they simply didn't fill out the lengthy and obtrusive census questionnaire.  I can't remember if mine just said "occupant" or had my name on the envelope.  I filled it out, though very reluctantly.  I thought many of the questions were definitely Big Brother material that could potentially come back and bite me in the a** later.  An illegal, on the other hand, will simply go back to Mexico, or areas further south,  and return a few months later at a totally different address. 

My point above is this:  If I don't fill one out I face the possibility of a fine or worse.  If an illegal doesn't fill it out what happens?  Great country huh?  That is if you aren't a citizen of it.  Smile

Jun 22, 2011 7:54PM
Who wants to be typical?  Successful is kind of nice, rich would be even better, maybe typical rich would be better than typically poor, has to be.   But to lump Americans into  typical and non-typical would be an injustice, we are a melting pot society and vertially all different and that's what has made America great for so long.   I don't need some bookworm telling me that the world is screwed up now,  I think we can all see it and realize the US is actually going downhill a little right now.   I blame it on bi-partisian politics and a whole lot of radical voters that continue to vote bi-partisian too.
Jun 22, 2011 9:14PM
There was an experiment done in the 1940's to try to make everybody typical in Germany. It was a horrible failure.
Jun 22, 2011 9:36PM
baco, if you are able to vote, the country's in real trouble
Jun 23, 2011 1:41AM
Why can't we push the reset button on the economy? I'm 63 so I can tell you that in 1970 it was easy for anyone to live on a middle income salary buying made in America products and there were millions more people in unions than there are now. The American family now needs both the husband and wife working just to survive while most of the products are foreign. The government took in 2.16 trillion in tax receipts in 2010 and corporate receipts was only 9 percent or 191 billion dollars. Yes their tax rate is a bit lower but the reason that the total is so low is because each year more of them move their operations overseas only to export their products back here. Other countries have lower tax rates than the USA and some don't tax corporations at all. We should do the same before they are all gone. It can't be blamed on inflation because prices have moved up faster than wages and modern technology today makes companies even more profitable. Donald Trump hit the nail on the head when he spoke about our trade policies and free market this year and he wasn't even a serious candidate. Why do you think that there are so many more billionaires today yet so many people are finding themselves in poverty? Don't let them tell you that they can't make a damn good profit right here at home. Those rich billionaires have taken over our political system and own the same people that we elected. They have us attacking each other, attacking the poor on food stamps, attacking public service workers, and have forced every working family to a lean existence. We can't match the low wages paid in other countries because companies are unwilling to lower their prices to match those lower wages. I only made about $4 per hour in 1970 but I could buy a week's worth of groceries for $50. People that are making the foreign products that we buy today are making much less and cannot afford to buy what they produce. That's why they are sending them here and we aren't getting a good deal at all. If we continue trading our jobs away for cheaper products than most will end up jobless. It's time we put an embargo on every company that have deserted us and left this country in such a mess. If they don't build as many of the same products here than let them sell them somewhere else. We will have new companies locating here springing up overnight to take their place and they will do just fine. Tell Obama and that pack of republicans running for president that it is time to push the reset button and get Americans working again.
Jun 22, 2011 6:56PM
this is the silliest premise I have seen in years. there have been changes both for the good and bad over the years, but the "american family: still remains  intact.
Jun 23, 2011 12:36AM

What a worthless article... at least she provided links to some info I suppose.  Consider the quote "For instance, did you know that while 26.7% of American households composed of only a single male had incomes between $50,000 and $150,000, just 17.9% of single-female households did. The gender gap at work, it would seem." 


There is no context to evaluate this statement in...i.e. age differences in the sexes, occupational analysis, and experience or years in the current job with the same company. etc  The author just jumps to the unfounded conclusion that it must be the "gender gap" 


Lynn my 4 year old child could see the faulty logic in that...and I don't have children.  Please tell me you don't have any formal training in journalism...I prefer to think that nepotism is the only reason your allowed to publish such drivel.

Jun 23, 2011 12:41AM

Two things don't really make much sense about this article.  The main one is that married households peaked at about 23% in 1970, yet it is supposed to be surprising that unmarried households were the majority for the past six years.   If marrieds peaked at 23% in 1970, you would think that unmarrieds have been the majority for the past 200+ years.


The other thing is that if about 17% of single females had incomes between $50K and $150K, we know nothing of how the gender gap goes until we know how many single female households had incomes of over $150K (or under $50K) in their different groupings.

Jun 22, 2011 10:10PM
What is with a higher income level for 2 gay women compared to 2 gay men? As a gay man, I can only give you my observations in the communities in which I have work (and I really don't mean to stereotype anyone - just my observation of others in the workforce). Gay men seem to be more inclined to pursue artistic or image-enhancing positions such as hair stylist (or managing a hair stylist firm/company), bank and retail sales management positions, which are typically not the big money makers. My gay female friends however, are lawyers, accountants, business owners of all types (typically these women all have at least thier master's degrees or MBA's). I'm not sure what the motivational drivers are for these differences, but I have noted this throughout the years in different areas of the country where I have lived. I love my gay female friends - they often pick up the check :)
Jun 22, 2011 7:52PM
Gosh after reading this report  I feel like I must be abnormal!
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.