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Household Sizes Growing in the U.S. for the First Time in 160 Years

This decade is likely to produce demographic news that will shock anyone born after 1850.
October 2, 2019, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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According to an article by Richard Fry, this decade will likely be the first since the one that began in 1850 to break this long-running trend of shrinking households. In 2010, the average U.S. household was 2.58. "In 2018 there were 2.63 people per household," writes Fry. All those figures are way down from the 5.79 people per household in 1790.

So why is American life making a shift that hasn't been witnessed since before slavery was abolished?

Households are increasing in size mathematically because the growth in the number of households is trailing population growth. The newly released data indicates that the population residing in households has grown 6% since 2010 (the smallest population growth since the 1930s), while the number of households has grown at a slower rate (4%, from 116.7 million in 2010 to 121.5 million in 2018).

According to Fry, the increasing size of households will have economic effects in the housing sector and in consumer goods like home appliances and home furnishings. "In general, it leads to a less vigorous housing sector – fewer apartment leases and home purchases, as well as less spending related to housing, such as cable company subscriptions and home accessories suppliers," according to Fry.

As for the demographic trends driving the growing American household, Fry focuses on two trends of note: a growing share of population living in multi-generational households and a growing share of Americans "doubling up" in shared living quarters.

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Published on Tuesday, October 1, 2019 in Pew Research Center
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