Quick – Describe the Typical American Family

(don’t worry, no one else can either…there is no “typical” family)


December 9, 2013 – Digit #12

We’ve seen it coming for quite some time, but now there’s a widespread sense that “Poof! Here it is!”– the modern, redefined (or not confined to a definition) American family. The signs have been popping up for a while – demographic and social changes along the way that become major changes in our culture. So here’s a quick DYG decoder on a few of the key drivers behind families today.

Digit 12 pic 1Breadwinner Wives
2-in-3 Americans now say it’s perfectly okay for a dad to stay home and mom to be the breadwinner.

Behind the trend:

  • Women lead in college+ education and higher post-recession employment
  • New pragmatism when it comes to money since the Great Recession:
    whatever works for the household
  • 40% of women are sole or primary breadwinners

Widespread Acceptance of Diversity
A healthy majority – 58% – believe it’s “perfectly all right for people who live together but aren’t married to think of themselves as family.”

Digit 12 pic 2And 51% are in favor of same-sex marriage (even Dick Cheney!). In 1996, support was at 27%. Meanwhile the “Gayby Boom” is, in fact, booming: the number of gay couples with children has doubled in the past decade

Marriage Up & Down
Fewer marriages (particularly among 20somethings) and a lower rate of divorce.

Behind the trend:

  • The recession influenced postponing of marriage
  • Divorce rate declined to 40% — no surprise that Gen Xers who grew up with divorce now want stability (Upscale adults, Asian Americans lead in stability; Boomers lead in divorce)

Kids Front & Center (more than ever)
80% say “once you have a child, your own needs come second.” (66% in 1987)
At the same time, women are waiting longer to have children and having fewer children when they do. But when Americans have kids, they are center stage in every way.

We could go on and on. Any way you look at it the American family is a bigger, more inclusive idea – and in reality, bigger than ever in the marketplace. A good thing for marketing just about anything from cereal to cars.

Business Implications: What it all means for marketers is new targets – and a new tone in messaging. The expanded family gives brands more ways to connect and more ways to establish a foothold by acknowledging the reality of now: talking to the wider cast of decision-makers and communicating that “we get you” – and your modern traditional unique family needs.


Sources: DYG SCAN 2013; NYT ; fivethirtyeight