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Martin Laplante

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Mon, 29 May 2006

Average household size - up or down?

I may just be over-sensitive, but I must have heard 3 different journalists on 3 different urban planning stories referring to the decreasing average household size as the reason for various real estate trends and planning decisions.

It's common knowledge that the average household is shrinking, what with the divorce rate, fewer children, mobility, and empty nesters living longer. The problem is, it's NOT TRUE.

The average household size is now going up, not down, just about everywhere in North America. It had been steadily going down since 1960. In the late 80's or early 90's it stabilized, and since then it's been going up slowly. The U.S. leads the trend, with a small increase from 2.59 to 2.60 between 2000 and 2004, and very significant increases in family size. In Canada, the trend lags behind the U.S. a bit; the average size is stable at 2.6 in 2001 like in 1996 (there is rounding, it actually did go down a bit).

Yet urban planners, who should be looking into the future, are still making policies based on trends of the past.



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