Household composition statistics
Data extracted in May 2021.
Planned article update: June 2022.
This article presents data on the development of households in the European Union (EU) and in the EU Member States during the past decade. It also reports at European level on the evolution of men and women living either as a couple, alone or in another type of household . The presence of children in households is also given special attention. Furthermore, the article focuses on the changes in young people's living situations between 2019 and 2020.
The statistics presented in this article are based on the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS), which is one of the largest European household sample surveys.
Increasing number of households consisting of adults living alone
During the last decade i.e. 2010-2020, the total number of households in the EU increased by 7.2 %. In 2020, the European Union recorded 195.4 million households with on average 2.3 members per household. The largest average household size was recorded in Croatia (2.8 members) and in Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, Poland, Romania and Slovakia (all with 2.6 persons in average) while the smallest was observed in Sweden (1.5 members), followed by Denmark, Germany**, Estonia and Finland (each with 2.0 members).
Between 2010 and 2020, only three EU Member States remained unchanged in terms of household size (namely Luxembourg, Denmark and the Netherlands). All other EU Member States recorded a decrease in the average number of persons per household. The largest decreases since 2010 were observed in Sweden* with the average household size decreasing from 2.0 in 2010 to 1.5 members in 2020, Latvia (from 2.6 to 2.2 members), Malta (from 2.9 to 2.6 members) and Estonia (from 2.3 to 2.0 members).
The evolution of household composition over time shows some changes. As previously mentioned, the total number of households rose by 7.2 % between 2010 and 2020. However, single adult households (i.e. households consisting of only one adult, living with or without children) increased much faster, namely by 19.5 % in the same period (see Figure 2). This growth is even more pronounced in single adult households without children (+20.3 %)(see Figure 3 for a comparison of 2010 and 2020 data by presence of children). Households made of a couple (lawful unions or by contract), with or without children, registered a slower increase of 4.0 %. This growth is almost entirely due to the higher number of couples living without children. Moreover, households with two (not being a couple) or more adults, named also "other type of households" in this article (e.g. an economically independent adult child living with one or two parents, elderly person living with other members of the family, economically independent room mates), decreased by 7.4 % over the 2010-2020 period in the EU. The decrease in this type of household is even higher for households with dependent children (-15.7 %) than for those without children (-3.4 %).
Relative differences in households for men and women, young people and seniors
Looking at the increase in the adult population (see Figure 4), the development over the last decade shows different patterns according to age and sex. With regard to single adults, both men and women recorded a higher number of people living alone for all age groups in 2020 compared to 2010. The growth is higher than 10 % for all categories except for young women aged 15-24. For both men and women, the proportion of single adults increased faster than that of adults living in a couple. This last finding is observed for men and women of all age groups, apart from women aged 65 and more for whom a higher increase was recorded for those living in a couple (+14.0 % for single women aged more than 65 against +24.3 % for the same age women living in couple). In terms of gender, male adults living alone increased more steeply than female adults living alone, regardless of age group. Men aged 55-64 experienced the greatest increase in the period 2010-2020, with a 52.2 % increase. For comparison, women in the same age category recorded an increase of 25.2 % since 2010. Older men aged 65 and over living alone increased by 40.5 % in 2020 compared to 2010. The corresponding increase for women was 14.0 %.
In addition to these developments, differences at EU level are also visible in the share of adults living alone, in a couple or in another type of household (i.e. with another adult but not as a couple or with several adults) according to the age group (see Figure 5). Around half of adults above 15 years old live as a couple (respectively 48.3 % of women and 51.9 % of men). Almost three in ten women and men lived in another type of household (respectively, 26.8 % and 29.1 %). Women living alone accounted for one quarter of the total women (24.9 %) while men living alone accounted for almost one fifth of the total male population (19.0 %).
In the context of the EU-LFS, children are those aged up to 24 years old, living with adults and economically dependent. Looking only the adults aged between 15 and 24 years (so those economically independent), the vast majority of men (72.1 %) live in another type of household (i.e. two, but not as a couple, or more adults) against 58.2 % of women. Another difference among young adults is that around one in five female adults aged 15-24 live as a couple (18.9 %) while it is the case for fewer than one in ten men in this age category (7.7 %).
In the EU, 40.4 % of women aged 65 or over live alone compared with 19.8 % of men in the same category. Four out of ten women (40.1 %) and six out of ten men (62.9 %) live as a couple, probably because women on average live longer.
Presence and number of children
In 2020, the EU recorded an increase of 11.2 % in households without children and a decrease of 1.4 % in households with children, compared with the situation in 2010 (see Figure 6). At national level, all countries, with the exception of Bulgaria which showed no change, recorded an increase between 2010 and 2020 in households without children, ranging from +67.6 % in Malta, +54.0 % in Sweden*, +34.6 % in Luxembourg and +26.2 % in Cyprus to +1.1 % in Croatia, +4.2 % in Denmark and +4.6 % in Germany**. Turkey also recorded a sharp increase (68.4 %) in households without children. Regarding households with children, the development is relatively disparate among the Member States: the number of households with children decreased in 17 EU Member States, with the largest decrease in Lithuania (-21.3 %). It remained stable in Spain, however, and increased in 9 EU Member States, including Luxembourg and Malta, where it increased by more than 15% (+15.1 % and +35.4 %, respectively).
The 2020 distribution of households shows that the share of households in which children live can vary considerably from one country to another (see Figure 7). At EU level, around three in ten households (28.7 %) include children. At the top of the scale, children lived in one third or more of households in Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Cyprus, Slovakia, Malta, Romania and Luxembourg. In Sweden*, Finland, and Germany**, children were found in less than one out of every four households.
More than two thirds of households with children consisted of couples (68.7 %). In some countries, it is by far the most common type of household with children: in Finland and Greece, couples represent 83.9% and 79.2 % respectively of the total number of households with children, while the lowest share in the EU is observed in Latvia (46.6 %). In Serbia and North Macedonia, less than half of the households with children are couples (48.2 % and 40.9 %). These two candidate countries have the highest share of households consisting of two (not being a couple) or more adults and that include children (46.3 % in Serbia and 57.2 % in North Macedonia). They are followed by the two EU Member States Croatia and Romania, as well as Turkey, where more than one-third of households with children include two (who are not a couple) or more adults. At EU level, these households accounted for 17.3 % of households with children, while this percentage is below 10 % in Estonia, Finland, Denmark and Sweden*. In these countries except Finland (i.e. Estonia, Denmark and Sweden*) but also in Latvia, Lithuania and France, single parents represent more than 20 % of households with children. In the whole European Union, single parents accounted for 14.0 % of households with children. Romania and Croatia had the lowest proportions of single parents, as did Serbia, Turkey and North Macedonia (all recording a percentage less than 7 %).
Among households without children in the EU in 2020, almost half of them consisted of single adults (49.1 %), around one third are couples (34.6 %) and 16.3 % are households with two (not being a couple) or more adults.
Households with one child are the most common among households with children. In 2020, in the EU, almost half of the households with children included one child (47.5 %). Portugal, Lithuania and Latvia showed the highest shares of households with one child, i.e. ranging between 55 % and 57 %. However, in Ireland, Sweden* and the Netherlands, households with one child constituted less than 40 % of households with children (see Figure 8).
At EU level, four in ten households with children (39.9 %) included two children in 2020. Households with two children or more were most frequent in Ireland, Sweden*, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Croatia and in North Macedonia. In those countries, there were more households with two children than with one child.
In the EU, 12.6 % of the households with children in 2020 consisted of households with three or more children. Ireland, Finland, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Sweden* and Croatia recorded the highest share of households with three children or more, all above 15.0 %; this was also the case of North Macedonia. In Portugal (6.3 %), Bulgaria (7.4 %), Italy (8.1 %), Spain (9.3 %), Lithuania (9.4 %) and Greece (9.8 %), less than one in ten households with children had three children or more.
Potential impact of the COVID-19 crisis on households
Looking at the changes between 2019 and 2020 data at EU level, the significant increase in the number of children aged 15 to 24 with a medium or high educational level attainment (as persons with full social and economic dependence of other household member/-s) is one of the most relevant findings. Please note that high education level refers in this article to tertiary education (levels 5-8) and the medium level to the upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary education (levels 3 and 4).
Figure 9 presents the evolution of persons aged 15 to 24 who attained a medium or a high education attainment level broken down by their household situation. It clearly shows that the children category was the most prominent category in 2020 including 41.2 % of those people against 38.3 % one year earlier in 2019 and that category significantly increased from 2019 to 2020 (+8.4 %) while the other categories decreased. For example, among people aged 15 to 24 with a medium or high level of education in 2019, the largest category was not the children, but the adults living in other types of households (accounting for 38.5 % in 2019 versus 37.7 % in 2020). In this case, it is assumed that people are socially and economically independent even living with other family members or other adults. This category decreased by 1.3 %. Furthermore, 12.8 % were single adults in 2020 against 14.2 % in 2019, reporting a decrease of 9.5 % in only one year. Adults aged 15-24 with a high or medium educational level and living as a couple accounted for 8.3 % in 2020 compared to 9.0 % in 2019. This category also decreased by 7.4 % over this one-year period. In comparison to the pre-COVID situation, these findings show that there were significantly more young people with a medium or high educational level who were economically dependent on and lived with other adults in 2020.
Source data for tables and graphs
Source: All statistics presented in this article are derived from the European Union Labour Force Survey (EU-LFS). The EU-LFS is the largest European household sample survey providing quarterly and annual results on labour participation of people aged 15 and over. It covers residents in private households and excludes those in collective households. Conscripts in military or community service are not included in the results. The EU-LFS is based on the same target populations and uses the same definitions in all countries, which means that the results are comparable between the countries.
Under the specific topic 'Households statistics', the EU-LFS currently covers statistics on household composition and number and size of households.
Reference period: Yearly results are obtained as averages of the four quarters in the year.
Definition: A child is defined as a household member aged less than 25 years and in full social and economic dependence from other household member/-s (parents / adults).
Coverage: The results from the EU-LFS currently cover all European Union Member States, the EFTA Member States of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, as well as the candidate countries Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey. For Cyprus, the survey covers only the areas of Cyprus controlled by the Government of the Republic of Cyprus. Nevertheless, EU-LFS household data are not available for Iceland, Norway, Switzerland.
European aggregates: EU refers to the sum of EU Member States. If data are unavailable for a country, the calculation of the corresponding aggregates takes into account the data for the same country for the most recent period available. Such cases are indicated.
Country notes: (*) Data for Sweden should be interpreted cautiously, as household data is not calibrated for non-response against administrative data. (**) In Germany, since the first quarter of 2020, the Labour Force Survey (LFS) has been integrated into the newly designed German microcensus as a subsample. Unfortunately, for the LFS, technical issues and the COVID-19 crisis has had a large impact on the data collection processes, resulting in low response rates and a biased sample. Changes in the survey methodology also led to a break in the data series. The published German data are preliminary and may be revised in the future. For more information, see here.
Different articles on detailed technical and methodological information are available through: EU labour force survey.
In addition to the Labour Force Survey (LFS), the EU-Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) is also a source of household statistics. The EU-SILC is a multi-purpose instrument which focuses mainly on income. However, information on housing conditions, social exclusion, labour and education is also collected.
- Labour Force Survey, see:
- LFS series - specific topic(t_lfst)
- Number of persons in households (tsdpc510)
- LFS series -Specific topics (lfst)
- Households statistics - LFS series (lfst_hh)
- Population by household composition and number of children or age of youngest child (lfst_hh_p)
- Employment by household composition (lfst_hh_e)
- Employment by number of children and age of youngest child (lfst_hh_k)
- Working status within households (lfst_hh_s)
- Number and size of households (lfst_hh_n)
- Households statistics - LFS series (lfst_hh)
- Living conditions (ilc_lv)
- Private households (ilc_lvph)],
- Average household size (source: SILC) (ilc_lvph01)
- Distribution of households by household type from 2003 onwards (source: SILC) (ilc_lvph02)
- Distribution of households by household size (source: SILC) (ilc_lvph03)
- Distribution of households by household type and income level (source: SILC) (ilc_lvph04)
- Distribution of households with children by number of children (source: EU-SILC) (ilc_lvph05)
- Private households (ilc_lvph)],
- Population (pop), see:
- Census - time series of selected indicators (cens_hn)
- Housing (cens_hnhsng)
- Households by size (number of persons) (cens_hndwsize)
- Housing (cens_hnhsng)
- see country notes for Sweden and Germany at the end of the article