Households and families

The evidence indicates that the number of households increased faster than the number of people in households meaning that the average household size has decreased - more people are living alone or in smaller households. This trend is not new and has been ongoing since the 1970s.  The factors which influence this include decreasing fertility rates; increasing levels of divorce or separation; an ageing population including people living alone after bereavement and people choosing to live alone.

The proportion of households with children has decreased.

The proportion of lone parents, as a proportion of overall households, has stayed stable. However, the number of lone parents and the proportion of households with children headed by a lone parent have risen.

The proportion of the total population describing themselves as 'white Scottish' has fallen by four percentage points over the time period. This is mainly attributable to rises in 'non-British white minority ethnic' and 'non-white minority ethnic' groups, both up by 2% to 4%.

The most common family type is now single households. But we need to know more about this group. For example, to what extent is this choice, or the result of an ageing population or more family fluidity?

Sir Harry Burns recently gave evidence to the Health and Sport Committee on health inequalities in the early years. He talked about the so-called 'Glasgow effect' with Glasgow seeing huge inequalities in life expectancy but to an even greater extent than might be expected in similar cities such as Manchester and Liverpool. He concluded that 'connectedness' is one aspect which differentiates these cities from Glasgow - that is, that people join more clubs and societies, tend to volunteer more, are members of churches and so on.

What does the rise in single person households mean for our level of connectedness as a society and how single person households interact with families? Some of these single person households are non-resident parents, mainly fathers. How do we ensure that they are supported to stay in touch? Recent policies, such as the bedroom tax have had the opposite effect, yet a recent report from the Equal Opportunities Committee is urging policymakers to see how fathers be supported to play an active part in their children's lives.

Large numbers of single person households are older people, many of them grandparents, many of them playing an active part in their grandchildren's lives. We need to determine how we can support them to do this, and how we can ensure that single person households stay connected - this suggests the need for inter-generational work which pulls together and connects generations.

The evidence shows a small increase in minority ethnic households. They are largely concentrated within cities, within particular postcode areas, and mainly Asian but with a wide variety of ethnic groups. There is very little Scottish specific research to provide more detail.