Household Identification For Novices And Dummies


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Household size and composition play an important role in the economic and social well-being of families and individuals. The number and characteristics of household members affect the types of relationships and the pool of economic resources available within households, and they may have a broader impact by increasing the demand for economic and social support services. For example, the growth in single-parent families has increased the need for economic welfare programs, while a rising number of older adults living alone has led to greater demand for home health care workers and other personal assistance services. The decennial census provides the most comprehensive and reliable data on changing household size and composition, especially for less numerous household types such as same-sex married couples.Average household size has declined over the past century, from 4.6 persons in 1900 to 3.68 persons in 1940 to only 2.58 persons by 2010. This decline is due to decreases in the share of households with three or more persons and increases in the share with only one or two persons. In 1940, for example, more than one in four households had at least five persons and less than one in 10 had only one person. By 2010, these shares had nearly reversed, with more than one-fourth of all households having only one person and slightly more than one-tenth having five or more persons. However, there are signs of a reversal in the decline in average household size. Although the trend away from large households has continued since 2010, average household size actually increased between 2010 and 2017 from 2.58 to 2.65 persons. If average household size remains larger than 2.58 in 2020, it will be the first such intercensal increase since the 1900 Census. The increase in average household size since 2010 appears to be driven by growth in the share of households with two persons-from 33 percent to 34 percent-and a decline from 40 percent to 38 percent in the share with three or more persons. Changes in household composition help explain these trends in household size. The shifts in U.S. household composition over the last five decades have been striking, as the share of family households has declined and the share of nonfamily households has increased. In 1960, 85 percent of all households contained families, but by 2017, this share had dropped to 65 percent. Conversely, the share of nonfamily households more than doubled from 15 percent to 35 percent during this period. The types of households within the family and nonfamily categories have also shifted, with a consistent decline in the share of married couples with children and a steep and consistent increase in the share of people living alone.

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