What is a “traditional” family these days?

The make-up of a U.S. family has changed dramatically over the past century. The latest figures from the U.S. 2010 Census indicate that the average U.S. household consists of 2.6 people versus approximately 4.0 in 1940. Likewise, married couples with children make up only 20 percent of all U.S. households versus 40 percent in 1970. But while the look of a family may no longer be “traditional”, the balancing act facing families is unchanged, with concerns ranging from child and elder care to spouse employment.

To take a closer look at the issues affecting domestic transferees and their families, in mid-2011 Worldwide ERC surveyed nearly 150 corporate, government and military relocation experts whose organizations were responsible for transferring more than 42,000 employees within the United States during 2011. The full survey results can be found in the 2011 U.S. Mobility Survey. Here are a few highlights from the study, which was sponsored exclusively by relocation specialists , TRC Global Mobility.

The percentage of transferees who are women is on the rise

Organizations estimate that 37 percent of their transferees are women. This is up from 32 percent in 2007. This increase could be related to the economy, which may be driving more women to accept transfers in order to hold on to their jobs. However, there continues to be a significant disparity between the percentage of female transferees and the percentage of females in professional, management and related occupations.

Split-family relocations becoming more common

Employees may decide to accept a transfer and move to the new location in advance of their families for a period of time. These are known as split-family relocations, and are often the result of economic issues such as difficulty in selling the employee’s old location home. Nearly 70 percent of respondents have encountered split-family relocations within their organizations in the last two years, and more than half said these situations have become more common since 2009. Less than half of the organizations with split-family relocations make adjustments to their mobility policies to accommodate these types of moves.

Corporate spouse-employment assistance dips

With a significant number of dual-earner couples in the workforce, the impact of relocation on the spouse’s career and family income may be substantial. As a result, formal spouse-employment assistance provisions had been on a steady upward trend since the early 1990s, peaking at about 40 percent of companies in 2003 and 2007. However, the trend line dipped to 36 percent of organizations providing formal assistance in 2011 — likely a result of corporate belt-tightening.

Child-care assistance also down

With dual-earner couples as the norm, families are reliant on non-parental care providers to watch over their children. But in a downward shift from previous surveys, only 19 percent of surveyed employers in 2011 provided child-care assistance to transferees on a formal basis. This is a substantial decrease from 31 percent in 2007 and 39 percent in 2003.

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