What is the nuclear family?
It’s a familiar scene straight out of 20th Century Americana. A married heterosexual Caucasian couple and two or three biological kids living in suburbia with shiny new appliances and a white picket fence. For decades, this exemplified the typical American family.
If there’s any doubt, take a look at the popular sitcoms of the Golden Era of Television: Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best, The Donna Reed Show, Hazel. The storylines were contrived and the familial relationships predictably saccharine, but the demographic make-up of the typical sitcom family was fairly close to real life.
There were certainly exceptions, but the so-called “nuclear family” remained the predominant family structure throughout much of the 20th century. As late as 1970, more than 40% of American families fell into that category, according to nuclear family statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau.
For employers, this relatively static family structure simplified the process of offering a benefits package that would be valued by virtually everyone. Health insurance for Dad, Mom, and the kids, a pension, and life insurance to pay for Dad’s burial since he was nearly always the primary, if not the sole, breadwinner.