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This article is about an economic, social, or socioeconomic grouping. For the article on the author, see Geoffrey Household.

A household consists of one or more people who live in the same dwelling and also share at meals or living accommodation, and may consist of a single family or some other grouping of people.[1] A single dwelling will be considered to contain multiple households if either meals or living space are not shared. The household is the basic unit of analysis in many social, microeconomic and government models, and is important to the fields of economics, inheritance.[2] Household models include the family, varieties of blended families, share housing, group homes, boarding houses, houses in multiple occupation (UK), and a single room occupancy (US). In feudal times, the royal Household and medieval households of the wealthy would also have included servants and other retainers.


For statistical purposes in the United Kingdom, a household is defined as "one person or a group of people who have the accommodation as their only or main residence and for a group, either share at least one meal a day or share the living accommodation, that is, a living room or sitting room".[3]

The United States Census definition similarly turns on "separate living quarters", i.e. "those in which the occupants live and eat separately from any other persons in the building"[4] A householder in the U.S. census is the "person (or one of the people) in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented (maintained);" if no person qualifies, any adult resident of a housing unit is a householder. The U.S. government formerly used the terms "head of the household" and "head of the family" to describe householders; beginning in 1980, these terms were officially dropped from the census and replaced with "householder".[5]

A household is officially defined as follows:[6]

A household includes all the persons who occupy a housing unit. A housing unit is a house, an apartment, a mobile home, a group of rooms, or a single room that is occupied (or if vacant, is intended for occupancy) as separate living quarters. Separate living quarters are those in which the occupants live and eat separately from any other persons in the building and which have direct access from the outside of the building or through a common hall. The occupants may be a single family, one person living alone, two or more families living together, or any other group of related or unrelated persons who share living arrangements. (People not living in households are classified as living in group quarters.)

According to Statistics Canada, since July 15, 1998, "a household is generally defined as being composed of a person or group of persons who co-reside in, or occupy, a dwelling."[7]

Economic theories[edit]

Most economic theories assume there is only one income stream to a household[citation needed]; this a useful simplification for modeling, but does not necessarily reflect reality. Many households now include multiple income-earning members.

Most economic models do not address whether the members of a household are a family in the traditional sense. Government and policy discussions often treat the terms household and family as synonymous,[citation needed] especially in western societies where the nuclear family has become the most common family structure.[dubious ] In reality, there is not always a one-to-one relationship between households and families.


In social work the household is a residential grouping defined similarly to the above in which housework is divided and performed by householders. Care may be delivered by one householder to another, depending upon their respective needs, abilities, and perhaps disabilities. Different household compositions may lead to differential life and health expectations and outcomes for household members.[8][9] Eligibility for certain community services and welfare benefits may depend upon household composition.[10]

In sociology 'household work strategy', a term coined by Ray Pahl,[11][12] is the division of labour between members of a household, whether implicit or the result of explicit decision–making, with the alternatives weighed up in a simplified type of cost-benefit analysis. It is a plan for the relative deployment of household members' time between the three domains of employment: i) in the market economy, including home-based self-employment second jobs, in order to obtain money to buy goods and services in the market; ii) domestic production work, such as cultivating a vegetable patch or raising chickens, purely to supply food to the household; and iii) domestic consumption work to provide goods and services directly within the household, such as cooking meals, child–care, household repairs, or the manufacture of clothes and gifts. Household work strategies may vary over the life-cycle, as household members age, or with the economic environment; they may be imposed by one person or be decided collectively.[13]

Feminism examines the ways that gender roles affect the division of labour within households. Sociologist Arlie Russell Hochschild in The Second Shift and The Time Bind presents evidence that in two-career couples, men and women, on average, spend about equal amounts of time working, but women still spend more time on housework.[14][15] Cathy Young, another feminist writer, responds to Hochschild's assertions by arguing that in some cases, women may prevent the equal participation of men in housework and parenting.[16]

Household models[edit]

Household models in anglophone culture include the family and varieties of blended families, share housing, and group homes for people with support needs. Other models of living situations which may meet definitions of a household include boarding houses, a house in multiple occupation (UK), and a single room occupancy (US).


In feudal or aristocratic societies, a household may include servants or retainers, whether or not they are explicitly so named. Their roles may blur the line between a family member and an employee. In such cases, they ultimately derive their income from the household's principal income.

Statistics on housing[edit]

According to statistics from Eurostat, the percentage of households in various European countries with access to an indoor WC, bath/ shower, and hot running water on the premises in 1988 were as follows:[17]

Country Indoor WC Bath/shower Hot running water
 Belgium 94% 92% 87%
 Denmark 97% 94% N/A
 France 94% 93% 95%
 Germany 99% 97% 98%
 Greece 85% 85% 84%
 Ireland 94% 92% 91%
 Italy 99% 95% 93%
 Luxembourg 99% 97% 97%
 Netherlands N/A 99% 100%
 Portugal 80% N/A N/A
 Spain 97% 96% N/A
 UK 99% 100% N/A

The percentage of dwellings in various European countries with certain amenities (bathroom or shower and central heating on the premises) varies widely.[18]

According to statistics from the World Bank and the Economic Commission for Europe (UN), the average usable floorspace of dwellings in existence in 1976 in various countries were as follows:[19]

Country m2
 Austria 86
 Belgium 97
 Bulgaria 63
 Canada 89
 Czechoslovakia 69
 Denmark 122
 Finland 71
 France 82
 East Germany 60
 West Germany 95
 Greece 80
 Hungary 65
 Ireland 88
 Luxembourg 107
 Netherlands 71
 Norway 89
 Poland 58
 Portugal 104
 Romania 54
 Soviet Union 49
 Spain 82
 Sweden 109
  Switzerland 98
 United Kingdom 70
 United States 120
 Yugoslavia 65

Average useful floor space (m2) per dwelling in selected European countries (Source: European Commission, 1994):[20]

Country m2
 Austria 85.3
 Belgium 86.3
 Denmark 107.0
 Finland 74.8
 France 85.4
 East Germany 64.4
 West Germany 86.7
 Greece 79.6
 Ireland 88.0
 Italy 92.3
 Luxembourg 107.0
 Netherlands 98.6
 Spain 86.6
 Sweden 92.0
 United Kingdom 79.7

Percentage of households without modern amenities (Source: Living Conditions in OECD Countries, 1986)[21]

Note: The Japanese and European data is from a 1980 census.

Percentage of households lacking an indoor flush toilet:

Country No indoor flush toilet
 Belgium 19%
 France 17%
 West Germany 7%
 Greece 29%
 Ireland 22%
 Italy 11%
 Japan 54%
 Norway 17%
 Portugal 43%
 Spain 12%
 United Kingdom 6%

Percentage of households lacking a fixed shower or bath:

Country No fixed shower or bath
 Belgium 24%
 France 17%
 West Germany 11%
 Italy 11%
 Japan 17%
 Norway 18%
 Spain 39%
 United Kingdom 4%

Floor space in selected countries (1992–1993)[22]

Country Year m2
 Australia 1993 191.0
 United States 1992 153.2
 South Korea 1993 119.3
 United Kingdom 1992 95.0
 Germany 1993 90.8
 Japan 1993 88.6

Basic amenities in British and German housing:[23]

Households with an exclusive use of an inside WC:


(1961) 87%

(1971) 88%

(1979) 95%


(1960) 64%

(1970) 85%

(1978) 92.5%

Households with a bath or shower:


(1961) 72%

(1971) 91%

(1979) 94.3%


(1960) 51%

(1970) 82%

(1978) 89.1%

Percentage of principle residences in France lacking certain amenities:[19]


No running water in dwelling: 21.6%

No W.C. in dwelling: 59.5%

No bath or shower in dwelling: 71.1%

No central heating: 80.7%


No running water in dwelling: 9.2%

No W.C. in dwelling: 45.2%

No bath or shower in dwelling: 52.5%

No central heating: 65.1%


No running water in dwelling: 2.8%

No W.C. in dwelling: 26.2%

No bath or shower in dwelling: 29.8%

No central heating: 46.9%


No running water in dwelling: 1.3%

No W.C. in dwelling: 20.9%

No bath or shower in dwelling: 22.9%

No central heating: 39.7%

Percentage of households with central heating:

Country 1970 1978
 Great Britain 34% 53%
 Germany 44% 64%

Percentage of dwellings in the United States with selected amenities (1970):[24]

Household Percentage
Bath or shower 95%
Flush toilet 96%

Historical housing conditions in Belgium

A survey carried out by the National Housing Institute in 1961/62 estimated that out of all the dwellings in Belgium 13.8% were unfit and incapable of improvement, 19.5%, although unfit, showed potential for improvement, and 54% were considered to be suitable (without alteration or improvement) for modern living standards. 74% lacked a shower or bath, 19% had inadequate arrangements for sewage disposal, 3.6% lacked a proper supply of drinking water, and only 36.8% had an internal W.C.[25]

Postwar housing conditions in France:

Between 1954 and 1973, the proportion of homes with shower or bath increased from 10% to 65,% while during that same period the percentage of homes without flushing lavatories fell from 73% to 30% and those without running water from 42% to 3.4%. A 1948 law permitted gradual long-term rent rises for existing flats, on condition that part of the money was spent on repairs. According to John Ardagh, the law, “vigorously applied, was partly successful in its twofold aim: to encourage both repairs and new building.”[26]

Postwar housing conditions in the United Kingdom:

In 1964 in England and Wales, 6.6% of accommodation units consisted of 2 rooms or less, 5.8% had 7 rooms or more, 15.2% had 6 rooms, 35.1% had 5 rooms, 26.3% had 4 rooms, and 11.1% had 3 rooms. These figures included kitchens only where they were used for eating meals. In terms of the number of bedrooms available in accommodation units in 1964 some 50% had 3 bedrooms, 1.9% had 5 or more bedrooms, 6.2% had 4 bedrooms, 10.5% had 1 or no bedrooms, and 31.3% had 2 bedrooms. A 1960 Social Survey estimated that 0.6% of households in England and Wales fell below the statutory overcrowding standard, and 0.5% in 1964. In 1964 the number of persons per room where households contained at least one person per room stood at 6.9% of all households, while in 1960 some 11% of all households fell below the bedroom standard, with 1.75% having 2 or more bedrooms less than the standard and 9.25% having one bedroom less than the standard. By 1964, however, this had declined slightly to 9.4% of households falling below this standard, with 8.1% having one bedroom less than the standard and 1.3% having 2 bedrooms or more less than the standard. According to local authority returns in 1965, 5% of the total housing stock in England and Wales was unfit.[27]

Housing conditions in Canada and the United States of America:

Various improvements took place in housing condition in both Canada and the USA in the years following the end of the Second World War. In the USA, 35.4% of all dwellings in 1950 did not have complete plumbing facilities, a proportion that fell to 16.8% in 1960 and to 8.4% in 1968. In Canada, from 1951 to 1971, the proportion of dwellings with a bath or shower went up from 60.8% to 93.4% and those with piped hot and cold water from 56.9% to 93.5%.[28] In the United States, from 1950 to 1974, the percentage of housing without full plumbing fell from 34% to 3%, while during that same period the percentage of the total housing stock estimated to be dilapidated fell from 9% to less than 4%.[29]

See also[edit]

Other sources[edit]

  • The Economist Book Of Vital World Statistics: A Complete Guide To The World In Figures, Introduction by Sir Claus Moser KCB CBE, The Economist Books Ltd., Fourth reprint, paperback edition, October 1992 (contains a section entitled “Consumer Durables,” with estimates of household ownership of a wide range of consumer durables in OECD countries and various Eastern European countries)


  1. ^ Haviland, W. A. (2003). Anthropology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  2. ^ O'Sullivan, Arthur; Steven M. Sheffrin (2003). Economics: Principles in action. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 07458: Pearson Prentice-Hall. p. 29. ISBN 0-13-063085-3. 
  3. ^ "National Statistics" (PDF).\accessdate=2015-05-17. 
  4. ^ "Households". 2015-03-24. Retrieved 2015-05-17. 
  5. ^ "U.S. Census: Current Population Survey - Definitions and Explanations". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ "Statistical unit - Household". 2012-02-23. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  8. ^ [2][dead link]
  9. ^ Basundhara Dhungel (14 May 2001). "A study of Nepalese families’ paid and unpaid work after migration to Australia" (PDF). Retrieved 2014-09-25. 
  10. ^ John Pierson and Martin Thomas, 2002 Collins Dictionary of Social Work. Glasgow, UK: HarperCollins
  11. ^ [3][dead link]
  12. ^ Ray Pahl (1984) Divisions of Labour
  13. ^ "household work strategy â€" Dictionary definition of household work strategy | FREE online dictionary". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  14. ^ Hochschild, Arlie Russell; Machung, Anne (2003). The Second Shift. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-200292-6. 
  15. ^ Hochschild, Arlie Russell (2001). The Time Bind: when work becomes home and home becomes work. New York: Henry Holt & Co. ISBN 978-0-8050-6643-2. 
  16. ^ Young, Cathy. "The mama lion at the gate". Retrieved 2008-07-08. 
  17. ^ "Report on Housing". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  18. ^ "A social portrait of Europe - Population and social conditions - EU Bookshop". Retrieved 2014-09-25. 
  19. ^ a b Housing in Europe edited by Martin Wynn
  20. ^ Housing policy and rented housing in Europe - Michael Oxley, Jacqueline Smith - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  21. ^ The State of Humanity - Julian Lincoln Simon - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  22. ^ The End of the Nation State: The Rise of Regional Economies by Kenichi Ohmae
  23. ^ Housing conditions in Britain and Germany by Chris Crouch
  24. ^ Lansley, Stewart (1979). Housing and Public Policy. London: Crook Helm. 
  25. ^ Social Housing Policy in Belgium; by C. J. Watson
  26. ^ The New France: A Society in Transition 1945-1977 (Third Edition) by John Ardagh
  27. ^ Socially Deprived Families in Britain edited by Robert Holman, reprinted edition 1971, first published in 1970
  28. ^ Housing Standards and Costs: A Comparison of British Standards and Costs with Those in the U.S.A., Canada, and Europe; by Valerie A. Karn
  29. ^

External links[edit]