Friday, November 16, 2012

What's Behind Shrinking Household Size?

Curiously, despite the economic turmoil in the aftermath of the Great Recession, average household size fell to a record low in 2012. The Census Bureau's release of 2012 household statistics shows why: the changing age distribution of the population. A look at household size by age of householder reveals an increase in household size in all but one age group between 2007 and 2012. Nevertheless, the average fell because of the aging of the population and the entry of generation X into the crowded-nest lifestage.

In 2012, the average household was home to 2.55 people, slightly smaller than the 2.56 of 2007. By age, however, average household size fell in only one age group during those years. The average size of households headed by 30-to-34-year-olds fell from 3.09 to 3.06 people. Every other age group experienced a slight increase in household size, with one of the largest gains occurring in the 40-to-44 age group (rising from 3.22 to 3.44 people).

Average household size declined between 2007 and 2012 because of the shifting age distribution of the nation's householders. In the 65-plus age group, average household size is less than two. Between 2007 and 2012, householders aged 65-plus expanded from 20 to 22 percent of total households. Meanwhile, the share of households headed by 35-to-44-year-olds (when household size peaks) fell from 20 to 18 percent of the total as generation X moved in. Yes, some young adults are living with their parents, but not enough to move the dial on average household size.

Source: Census Bureau, America's Families and Living Arrangements: 2012

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