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2.5 Children and a Dog? Now That’s Retro.

What do you picture when you envision the traditional American family? It’s probably different than the person sitting next to you, and the person sitting next to them. What the American family entails is a visual that continues to change, and brands across the country are taking note. Cheerios, Tylenol and Wells Fargo have all rolled out brand campaigns featuring new depictions of American families. From single-parent households, to both blended and interracial families, these campaigns reflect a major shift in the concept of “the American family.”

So – what’s behind the shift? We found that changing attitudes toward partnerships, different approaches to raising children, and gender roles, particularly among young adults, are all contributing factors.

Trends in Partnership

Which box do you check when filling out forms? The results are across the board, and a lot different than they ever used to be. Younger adults, specifically, have exhibited more ambivalence toward the concept of marriage. More and more Americans are postponing or forgoing the ceremony altogether. Many of these couples are choosing to cohabitate or possibly even raise children together, sans matrimony. Marriage isn’t completely out of the picture, however – many young adults want to get married but are waiting until they are older and more financially prepared.

And don’t rule out the d-word. While divorce is at its lowest rate in more than 35 years, it is still prevalent, and significantly contributes to this change in American family structures.

Trends in Raising Children

The Melting Pot

American families are more racially diverse than they ever have been, due to both increased immigration and increased visibility and acceptance of interracial marriages. Consequently, these trends are causing an uptick in the number of interracial births. There are also more children growing up in multigenerational households, a rise attributed to a more ethnically diverse population where multigenerational living is more common.

The New Normal

The makeup of American families is changing too. Since 2015, only 46% of children are living in a home with two married, heterosexual parents in their first marriage. Divorce has also shifted the family landscape. More and more divorced couples remarry, create “blended families” and raise children from previous marriages alongside step- or half-siblings.

Free to Be You and Me

With LGBTQ marriage and adoptions on the rise, today’s kids are now more likely to have two dads or two moms. This has significant economic implications – in 2015, LGBTQ consumers contributed $917 billion to the economy. As more LGBTQ partners become parents, this spending will likely increase.

The Unattached

Today, single households are the second-most-common type of household in the U.S. And, even though singles may bring in less income than their married counterparts, they still contribute a total of $1.9 trillion to the economy. In the modern world, singles are considered families – 26% of children are raised by a single parent.

Trends in Gender Roles

Every day more and more women are enrolling in and graduating from college, and the American economy is feeling the effects of this major swing. No longer does the era of the stay-at-home mom reign supreme, as more women are both raising families and pursuing careers. This new trend requires a balancing act to keep the household in order – for instance, men and women share household responsibilities more equally than in the past. And, with an increased household income, women remain economic powerhouses in the housing and automobile markets.

Implications for Brands and Marketing

As family types continue to diversify, their power as consumers is amplifying. The door is open for more segmented or targeted marketing that embraces and showcases the diversity of family types.

In the words of Chevrolet’s ad campaign, “The New Us: While what it means to be a family hasn’t changed, what a family looks like has.

To learn more about how this shift is impacting brands and marketing, request our full report.


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