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Households getting smaller

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01 Apr
New study published in Population and Environment has highlighted the recent rapid increase in the number of households around the globe, and the consequent increased consumption of resources

Researchers at Michigan State University reviewed data on household size going back to 1600. The results showed that in developed countries, average household size has declined rapidly from about five members in 1893 to 2.5 today. In developing nations, the rapid decline began much more recently – in around 1987. However, in almost every country studied, and over every time period, the number of households grew more rapidly than population size.

An increase in the number of households generally equates to an increase in demand for land and building materials, while smaller households are generally less efficient, with fewer people using proportionally more energy and water.

‘The changes we’re seeing in household size across the globe essentially doubles the number of homes needed per capita,’ said one of the study’s authors, Nils Peterson. ‘This will put enormous strain on the environmental life support system we rely on, even if we achieve a state of zero population growth.’ 

This story was published in the April 2014 edition of Geographical Magazine

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