Over the course of the nation’s history, there has been a slow but steady decrease in the size of the average U.S. household—from 5.79 people per household in 1790 to 2.58 in 2010. But this decade will likely be the first since the one that began in 1850 to break this long-running trend, according to newly released Census Bureau data. In 2018 there were 2.63 people per household.
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 percent since 2010 (the smallest population growth since the 1930s), while the number of households has grown at a slower rate (4 percent, from 116.7 million in 2010 to 121.5 million in 2018).
The increase in household size is significant because it could have implications for national economic growth. Rising household size reduces the demand for housing, resulting in less residential construction and less demand for home appliances and furniture. 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.