State of the Family in American Cities

The United States Family Belonging Index is 46 percent, with a corresponding Family Rejection Index of 54 percent, based on 2008-2012 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.1) The action of parents determines the Family Belonging or Rejection Index within a nation, region, state, or racial or ethnic group—whether they marry and belong to each other, or whether they reject one another through divorce or other means. Rejection leaves children without married parents committed to one another and to their children.

The Index of Family Belonging is determined by the fraction of children aged 15 to 17 in a given area who live with both their biological parents, who have been married since before or around the time of their birth.

1. Regional Index of Belonging

The Northeast has the highest Family Belonging Index (50 percent), followed by the Midwest (48 percent) and West (47 percent). The Family Belonging Index for the South is the lowest of the four Census regions at 42 percent.

2. City Index of Belonging and Rejection

The same aggregated data (2008 through 2010) from the Census Bureau also make it possible to derive Index of Family Belonging values for 45 of the largest U.S. cities.3

The data show the following:

  • In the average large city, just over three in ten teenagers have grown up with both married parents (36 percent). The Family Belonging Index score of Louisville, Kentucky, was closest to the average large city score.
  • This mean value was significantly lower than the average Family Belonging Index for the United States as a whole (45 percent).
  • In the typical (median) large city, just under four in ten teenagers have grown up with both parents (40 percent). The Family Belonging Index score of Jacksonville, Florida, was at the median value for large cities.
  • Only three of the 45 largest U.S. cities have an Index of Family Belonging greater than 50 percent: San Jose, California (56 percent); Seattle, Washington (54 percent); and San Francisco, California (53 percent).
  • In the five cities scoring lowest on Family Belonging, fewer than two in ten teenagers have been raised by both married parents. These cities were Cleveland, Ohio (15 percent); Baltimore, Maryland (16 percent); Washington, DC (17 percent); Memphis, Tennessee (17 percent); and Detroit, Michigan (18 percent).

City life in the United States is not favorable to family or marriage.

2.1 Ranking of 45 Largest U.S. Cities by Family Belonging


Index of Family Belonging for 45 Largest Cities
15- to 17-year-olds who have grown up with both married parents, 2008-2012 ACS

Rank City State Percent Belonging
1 San Jose California 56
2 Seattle Washington 54
3 San Francisco California 53
4 Fort Worth Texas 48
5 Mesa Arizona 47
6 Austin Texas 46
7 Virginia Beach Virginia 45
8 Colorado Springs Colorado 44
9 El Paso Texas 43
10 Phoenix Arizona 43
11 Fresno California 43
12 Los Angeles California 43
13 San Antonio Texas 43
14 Oakland California 42
15 Las Vegas Nevada 42
16 Portland Oregon 42
17 Arlington Texas 42
18 Houston Texas 41
19 Oklahoma City Oklahoma 40
20 Albuquerque New Mexico 40
21 Charlotte North Carolina 40
22 Jacksonville Florida 40
23 Dallas Texas 40
24 St. Louis Missouri 39
25 Kansas City Missouri 38
26 New York City New York 36
27 Louisville Kentucky 36
28 Nashville Tennessee 35
29 Sacramento California 35
30 Chicago Illinois 35
31 Long Beach California 35
32 Atlanta Georgia 33
33 Miami Florida 33
34 Tuscon Arizona 32
35 Columbus Ohio 32
36 Indianapolis Indiana 29
37 Denver Colorado 29
38 Boston Massachusetts 28
39 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 23
40 Milwaukee Wisconsin 20
41 Detroit Michigan 17
42 Memphis Tennessee 17
43 Washington District of Columbia 17
44 Baltimore Maryland 16
45 Cleveland Ohio 15

2.2 Ranking of 100 Largest U.S. Cities by Married Parents


100 Largest Cities Ranked by Percent of All Households with Children with Married Family Heads2)

Rank City State Percent of Parents Married
1 Plano Texas 77
2 Seattle Washington 70
3 Fargo North Dakota 69
4 San Jose California 69
5 Chandler Arizona 68
6 Lincoln Nebraska 68
7 San Francisco California 66
8 Madison Wisconsin 66
9 San Diego California 65
10 Salt Lake City Utah 64
11 Henderson Nevada 64
12 Virginia Beach Virginia 64
13 Mesa Arizona 64
14 Anaheim California 64
15 Colorado Springs Colorado 63
16 Boise Idaho 63
17 Riverside California 63
18 Anchorage Alaska 63
19 Billings Montana 63
20 Sioux Falls South Dakota 63
21 Honolulu Hawaii 63
22 Chula Vista California 62
23 Portland Oregon 61
24 Lexington Kentucky 61
25 Austin Texas 61
26 Santa Ana California 60
27 Bakersfield California 60
28 Fort Worth Texas 60
29 Arlington Texas 60
30 Las Vegas Nevada 59
31 Raleigh North Carolina 58
32 Charleston West Virginia 58
33 Denver Colorado 58
34 Wichita Kansas 58
35 Omaha Nebraska 58
36 Phoenix Arizona 58
37 Fort Wayne Indiana 57
38 Oklahoma City Oklahoma 57
39 Charlotte North Carolina 57
40 Aurora Colorado 57
41 Los Angeles California 56
42 Laredo Texas 56
43 Jacksonville Florida 56
44 Burlington Vermont 56
45 Cheyenne Wyoming 56
46 Albuquerque New Mexico 56
47 Portland Maine 55
48 El Paso Texas 55
49 Manchester New Hampshire 55
50 San Antonio Texas 55
51 Saint Paul Minnesota 54
52 Houston Texas 54
53 Des Moines Iowa 54
54 Fresno California 54
55 Long Beach California 53
56 Sacramento California 53
57 Dallas Texas 53
58 Stockton California 53
59 Tulsa Oklahoma 52
60 Louisville Kentucky 52
61 Tuscon Arizona 52
62 New York New York 52
63 Corpus Christi Texas 51
64 Nashville Tennessee 51
65 Oakland California 51
66 Greensboro North Carolina 50
67 St. Petersburg Florida 50
68 Columbus Ohio 49
69 Kansas City Missouri 49
70 Minneapolis Minnesota 49
71 Chicago Illinois 48
72 Indianapolis Indiana 48
73 Little Rock Arkansas 48
74 Columbia South Carolina 48
75 Tampa Florida 48
76 Jersey City New Jersey 47
77 Orlando Florida 46
78 Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 45
79 Norfolk Virginia 44
80 Miami Florida 44
81 Boston Massachusetts 43
82 Bridgeport Connecticut 43
83 Toledo Ohio 42
84 Atlanta Georgia 42
85 Providence Rhode Island 40
86 New Orleans Louisiana 40
87 Philadelphia Pennsylvania 38
88 Milwaukee Wisconsin 37
89 Washington District of Columbia 36
90 Cincinnati Ohio 35
91 Memphis Tennessee 34
92 St. Louis Missouri 34
93 Jackson Mississippi 33
94 Buffalo New York 32
95 Newark New Jersey 31
96 Birmingham Alabama 30
97 Baltimore Maryland 30
98 Cleveland Ohio 29
99 Wilmington Delaware 28
100 Detroit Michigan 27
U.S. 62
1) Steven Ruggles, J. Trent Alexander, Katie Genadek, Ronald Goeken, Matthew B. Schroeder, and Matthew Sobek, Integrated Public Use Microdata Series: Version 5.0 [Machine-readable database], (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2010).
2) Reports on the percent of all children living in a married family can give a biased picture of the state of marriage, making it more positive than is warranted. This is due to two primary reasons. First, “married parents” can include both biological married parents and married stepparents. Second, the Index gives an indication of the proportion of younger children who are still likely to experience the divorce of their parents before they reach age 18, the effects of which are numerous and long-lasting. Thus, the Index of Family Belonging is a more realistic instrument for the analysis of the family and its relationship to other social outcomes.


This entry draws heavily from Third Annual Index of Family Belonging and Rejection.