American families have made fundamental shifts in recent years. Family structures and compositions are changing, as depicted by recent portrayals like the Chevy Traverse spot “The New Us” and the ABC program Modern Family.
The decline of the nuclear family has been well documented, along with the corresponding increase in alternate family structures and non-family households. This can give the impression that families are less important or that most people are now living in non-family households.
But the truth is that most Americans still live in family households. As of 2010, families were 66% of households. It’s true that family households are down from 74% in 1980, but families are still the leading type of household (although individual families look different now).
As of 2010, family households with kids present accounted for 30% of all households, with 20% coming from ‘married with kids’ and 10% coming from ‘single parent.’
Looking within family households by ethnic group, there are differences in structure. Asian family households are much more likely to be either married with kids <18 at home or married with no kids at home. Hispanic households have a strong representation of both married with kids and single moms. African American family households are more likely to include adult children, and to be headed by a single mom. The largest group within white households is married with no kids, followed by married with kids.
With their larger average household size, ‘family with kid’ households account for disproportionate spending in many categories. Let’s dig a little deeper into these households.
Mom and Dad Spend More Time Parenting
Dads and moms share parenting priorities as discussed in my article, “The Balancing Act.” And both segments have increased the amount of non-leisure hours they spend on parenting, according to the Pew Research Center. These shifts reflect changing lifestyles and heightened desires around parenting, sometimes referred to negatively as ‘helicopter parenting.’
In 2011, moms allocated 26% of their non-leisure time to childcare, up from 20% in 1965. Dads increased their childcare time to 13% in 2011, up from 5% in 1965. Over the same timeframe moms have also dramatically decreased the time spent on housework, and also increased the time spent on paid work. Dads have increased their time in housework and shown decreases in paid work.
First-Time Mom: The Ever-Important Target Market
First time moms are extremely important to many brands, as they often form their brand preferences around their first child experience, and tend to follow suit with subsequent children. There are a few brands like Luvs who target the ‘experienced mom’ (mom of multiple children), but many more are targeting first-time moms. There are several things brands need to recognize about first-time moms.
Looking ahead for the next seven years, the majority of first-time moms will be Milllennials, digital natives, who bring distinct attitudes and behaviors to family formation and parenting. Another change in family structure is that today’s young adults (ages 18-29) have closer relationships with their parents, seeking their advice and input on a wide range of topics, including parenting.
Breaking down the data by ethnic group reveals that Hispanic and African American moms are younger (23), while Asian moms are older (29). These age disparities may require different marketing approaches, for example, in digital media.
The changes in family composition, time allocation and values are essential for brands to recognize and act upon, or risk appearing dated, insensitive or both. While it may be more challenging to dig deep to get to the insights and approaches that resonate with the ‘new’ families, brands that invest will gain a meaningful competitive advantage.