What is a single household unit

Household - definition, household sizes, trends


Household definition

A household is defined as "cohabiting and a economicunit educational Community of persons as people, the alonedwell and economize. The household can also include relatives and people outside the family (e.g. domestic staff) ”(de Lange et. Al. 2014, p. 65). The Household size indicates how many people live in such a unit.

Household sizes - examples

Worldwide there are large differences in average household sizes. The smallest average households with fewer than three people per household can be found in most countries in Europe and North America.

In Monaco and Serbia, for example, the average household size is 1.9 and 2.9 people respectively; in the USA it is 2.6. Some countries in East Asia and the Caribbean also have a small average household size: in Japan it is 2.4 people, in Montserrat it is 2.0.

The largest average household sizes (more than five people on average per household) occur in most countries in Africa and the Middle East. At the top are Senegal with 9.0 people per household and Oman with 8.0 (source: United Nations 2017)

Facts and trends

The source of the following list is a 2017 edition of the United Nations on the topic of household sizes:

The average household size is falling in almost all states

This is related to the decline in the birth rate and does not only affect industrialized countries. In Kenya, for example, the average household size decreased from 5.3 people per household in 1969 to 4.0 in 2014. During the same period, the average number of children per woman fell from 8.1 to 4.4.

In addition, better health care, economic factors, education and changed values ​​also play a role, among other things.

There are fewer and fewer children in households

In Africa and Asia there are children in around 80% of all households, in Europe and North America the figure is only below 40%. In Germany, children even live in less than one in five households.

There are big differences in the presence of parents

Looking at households with children under 15 years of age, in Asia (86%) and Europe (80%) the vast majority of households have both parents living in the same household.

The situation is different in Latin America and the Caribbean (72%), Africa (69%) and North America (69%).

In some African countries (e.g. Swaziland, Namibia, South Africa) the absence of a parent is the result of a high death rate among adults due to diseases such as HIV / AIDS.

Single parents represent a minority of households

Households with single mothers make up around 25% of all households with children in Africa, North and South America and the Caribbean. In Asia it is 11% and in Europe 18%.

Households with single fathers are much rarer with 2 - 4% of all households with children on the different continents. Only Africa is slightly higher with 7%.

Multi-generation households are more common in Africa and Asia

Multi-generation households are households with both a child under the age of 15 and a person over the age of 60. In Europe and the US, this is only the case for 2% of all households. Multi-generation households are far more common in Africa (14%) and Asia (13%).

If you look at individual countries, you are most likely to encounter such a household in Senegal (37% of all households are multi-generational households); it is least likely in the Netherlands (0.2%).

The trend towards smaller households has a negative impact on sustainability goals

The energy consumption per person is lower in larger households, as several members usually share household appliances (refrigerators, heating, air conditioning, etc.).


United Nations (2017): Household size and composition around the world. New York.
de Lange Norbert, Geiger Martin, Hanewinkel Vera, Pott Andreas (2014): Population geography. Heidelberg.