by traditional definitions, the percentage of children living in “single-parent” households has risen steadily over the past few decades, both nationally and in Massachusetts. One measure is the share of all births to unmarried mothers; nationally, that’s gone from 28 percent in 1990 to 34 percent in 2000 to an estimated 40 percent in 2007. In the Bay State, the corresponding figures are 25 percent, 27 percent, and 33 percent. (Mississippi has hit 54 percent, and Utah is at the other end of the scale, with 20 percent.)
In Northampton, the percentage of “single-parent” children drops from 40 percent to 30 percent under the new definition. In New Bedford, 58 percent of children live in households without married parents, but the number drops to 46 percent (still an alarming number, to be sure) when unmarried partners are counted. Even under the new definition, a majority of children now live in households with one parent in Lawrence, Holyoke, and Springfield. And in addition to New Bedford, the figure is above 40 percent in Boston, Fall River, Lynn, and Worcester. But the redefinition pushes the number down to a mere 10 percent in the exurbs of Billerica and Plymouth.