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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 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, 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] Feminist writer Cathy Young 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).

Historical households[edit]

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.

Historical statistics on housing[edit]

Percentage of dwellings with a bathroom in various European countries[17]


Belgium: 23.6%

Denmark: 39.4%

France: 28.0%

Germany: 51.9%

Greece: 10.4%

Ireland: 33.0%

Italy: 10.7%

Luxembourg: 45.7%

Netherlands: 30.3%

Portugal: 18.6%

Spain: 24.0%

United Kingdom: 78.3%


Belgium: 49.1%

Denmark: 73.1%

France: 48.9%

Germany: 71.5%

Ireland: 55.3%

Italy: 64.5%

Luxembourg: 69.4%

Netherlands: 75.5%

Spain: 77.8%

United Kingdom: 90.9%


Belgium: 73.9%

Denmark: 85.4%

France: 85.2%

Germany: 92.3%

Greece: 69.3%

Ireland: 82.0%

Italy: 86.4%

Luxembourg: 86.2%

Netherlands: 95.9%

Portugal: 58%

Spain: 85.3%

United Kingdom: 98.0%

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:[18]

CountryIndoor WCBath/showerHot running water

Percentage of dwellings in various European countries with certain amenities, according to 1981-82 censuses[19]

Bathroom or shower on the premises:

Belgium: 73.9%

Denmark: 85.1%

Germany: 92.3%

Greece: 69.3%

Spain: 85.3%

France: 85.2%

Ireland: 82.0%

Italy: 86.4%

Luxembourg: 86.2%

Netherlands: 95.9%

Portugal: 58.0%

United Kingdom: 98.0%

Internal WC:

Belgium: 79.0%

Denmark: 95.8%

Germany: 96.0%

Greece: 70.9%

France: 85.4%

Ireland: 84.5%

Italy: 87.7%

Luxembourg: 97.3%

Portugal: 58.7%

United Kingdom: 97.3%

Central heating on the premises:

Denmark: 54.6%

Germany: 70.0%

Spain: 22.5%

France: 67.6%

Ireland: 39.2%

Italy: 56.5%

Luxembourg: 73.9%

Netherlands: 66.1%

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:[20]

 East Germany60
 West Germany95
 Soviet Union49
 United Kingdom70
 United States120

Average useful floor space (m2) per dwelling in selected European countries (Source: European Commission, 1994):[21]

 East Germany64.4
 West Germany86.7
 United Kingdom79.7

Percentage of households without modern amenities (Source: Living Conditions in OECD Countries, 1986)[22]

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

Percentage of households lacking an indoor flush toilet:

CountryNo indoor flush toilet
 West Germany7%
 United Kingdom6%

Percentage of households lacking a fixed shower or bath:

CountryNo fixed shower or bath
 West Germany11%
 United Kingdom4%

Floor space in selected countries (1992-1993)[23]

 United States1992153.2
 South Korea1993119.3
 United Kingdom199295.0

Basic amenities in British and German housing:[24]

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:[25]


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:

 Great Britain34%53%

Percentage of dwellings in the United States with selected amenities (1970):[26]

Bath or shower95%
Flush toilet96%

Basic amenities in the housing stock of East Germany:[27]


Running water: 66.0% Interior WC: 33.0% Bath or shower: 22.4% Central heating: 2.5%


Running water: 82.2% Interior WC: 41.8% Bath or shower: 38.7% Central heating: 10.6%


Running water: 89.0% Interior WC: 50.0% Bath or shower: 50.0% Central heating: 22.0%

Percentage of dwellings in various European countries equipped with basic facilities (1970-71):[28]

Austria: Piped water: 84.2% Lavatory: 69.8% Fixed bath or shower: 52.9%

Belgium: Piped water: 88.0% Lavatory: 50.4% Fixed bath or shower: 47.8%

Czechoslovakia: Piped water: 75.3% Lavatory: 49.0% Fixed bath or shower: 58.6%

Denmark: Piped water: 98.7% Lavatory: 90.3% Fixed bath or shower: 76.5%

Finland: Piped water: 72.0% Lavatory: 61.4%

Greece: Piped water: 64.9% Lavatory: 41.2% Fixed bath or shower: 35.6%

Hungary: Piped water: 36.1% Lavatory: 27.2% Fixed bath or shower: 31.7%

Ireland: Piped water: 78.2% Lavatory: 69.2% Fixed bath or shower: 55.4%

Italy: Piped water: 86.1% Lavatory: 79.0% Fixed bath or shower: 64.5%

Netherlands: Lavatory: 80.8% Fixed bath or shower: 81.4%

Norway: Piped water: 97.5% Lavatory: 69.0% Fixed bath or shower: 66.1%

Portugal: Piped water: 47.8% Lavatory: 33.7% Fixed bath or shower: 32.6%

Spain: Piped water: 70.9% Lavatory: 70.9% Fixed bath or shower: 46.4%

Sweden: Piped water: 97.4% Lavatory: 90.1% Fixed bath or shower: 78.3%

Switzerland: Lavatory: 93.3% Fixed bath or shower: 80.9%

United Kingdom: Lavatory: 86.3% Fixed bath or shower: 90.7%

Yugoslavia: Piped water: 33.6% Lavatory: 26.2% Fixed bath or shower: 24.6%

Housing Conditions in Great Britain: percentage of all households possessing and lacking certain amenities:[29]

Percentage of all households entirely without certain amenities:

1951: Fixed bath: 37.6% Internal or external WC: 7.7%

1961: Fixed bath: 22.4% Internal or external WC: 6.5% Hot water tap: 21.8%

1966: Fixed bath: 15.4% Internal or external WC: 1.7% Internal WC: 18.3% Hot water tap: 12.5%

1971: Fixed bath: 9.1% Internal or external WC: 1.1% Internal WC: 11.5% Hot water tap: 6.5%

Percentage of all households sharing certain amenities:

1951: Fixed bath: 7.5% Internal or external WC: 14.9%

1961: Fixed bath: 4.4% Internal or external WC: 6.7% Hot water tap: 1.8%

1966: Fixed bath: 4.1% Internal or external WC: 6.4% Internal WC: 4.4% Hot water tap: 2.0%

1971: Fixed bath: 3.2% Internal or external WC: 4.1% Internal WC: 3.1% Hot water tap: 1.9%

Proportion of households in the United States of America possessing certain durable goods:[30]

Washing machine (1965): 87.4% Washing machine (1970): 92.1% Refrigerator (1965): 99.5% Refrigerator (1970): 99.8% Television (1965): 97.1% Television (1970): 98.7% Telephone (1965): 85.0% Telephone (1970): 92.0%

Proportion of households in the United Kingdom possessing certain durable goods:[31]

Washing machine (1964): 53.0% Washing machine (1971): 64.3% Refrigerator (1964): 34.0% Refrigerator (1971): 68.8% Television (1964): 80.0% Television (1971): 91.4% Telephone (1964): 2.20% Telephone (1971): 37.8%

Proportion of households in Scotland possessing certain durable goods:[32]

Washing machine (1971): 65.0% Refrigerator (1971): 53.2% Television (1971): 92.1% Telephone (1971): 36.1%

Proportion of households in Northern Ireland possessing certain durable goods:[33]

Washing machine (1971): 45.4% Refrigerator (1971): 40.1% Television (1971): 87.5% Telephone (1971): 27.0%

Proportion of households in the EEC possessing certain durable goods (1963-1964):[34]

Manual workers (1963-64)

West Germany

Washing machine: 66.2% Refrigerator: 62.1% Television: 51.3% Telephone: 1.8%


Washing machine: 39.6% Refrigerator: 47.0% Television: 34.4 Telephone: 1.4%


Washing machine: 13.6% Refrigerator: 50.2% Television: 47.9% Telephone: 20.0%


Washing machine: 80.4% Refrigerator: 25.5% Television: 58.0% Telephone: 9.4%


Washing machine: 74.7% Refrigerator: 24.9% Television: 47.6% Telephone: 8.2%


Washing machine: 82.3% Refrigerator: 64.7% Television: 27.9% Telephone: 23.0%

White collar workers (1963-64)

West Germany Washing machine: 62.2% Refrigerator: 79.1% Television: 51.8% Telephone: 19.6%


Washing machine: 48.2% Refrigerator: 71.3% Television: 43.3% Telephone: 15.2%


Washing machine: 38.3% Refrigerator: 81.9% Television: 79.3% Telephone: 57.9%


Washing machine: 73.9% Refrigerator: 51.6% Television: 56.2% Telephone: 57.4%


Washing machine: 68.5% Refrigerator: 57.3% Television: 48.3% Telephone: 40.0%


Washing machine: 82.3% Refrigerator: 79.2% Television: 25.2% Telephone: 67.3%

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.[35]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Haviland, W.A. (2003). Anthropology. Wadsworth: Belmont, CA.
  2. ^ 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
  4. ^ .
  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. ^
  10. ^ Collins Dictionary of Social Work, John Pierson and Martin Thomas, 2002, Harper Collins, Glasgow, UK
  11. ^ [3][dead link]
  12. ^ Divisions of Labour Ray Pahl (1984)
  13. ^ "household work strategy – 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. ^
  18. ^ "Report on Housing". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Housing in Europe edited by Martin Wynn
  21. ^ "Housing policy and rented housing in Europe - Michael Oxley, Jacqueline Smith - Google Books". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  22. ^ "The State of Humanity - Julian Lincoln Simon - Google Books". Retrieved 2012-03-24. 
  23. ^ The End of the Nation State: The Rise of Regional Economies by Kenichi Ohmae
  24. ^ Housing conditions in Britain and Germany by Chris Crouch
  25. ^ Housing in Europe edited by Martin Wynn
  26. ^ Lansley, Stewart (1979). Housing and Public Policy. London: Crook Helm. 
  27. ^ Housing in Europe edited by Martin Wynn
  28. ^
  29. ^ The Economics Of Housing Policy by D.C. Stafford
  30. ^ 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
  31. ^ 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
  32. ^ 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
  33. ^ 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
  34. ^ 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
  35. ^ Social housing policy in Belgium by C.J. Watson