National Records of Scotland

Preserving the past, Recording the present, Informing the future

Changing Household Size and Structure

Changing Household Size and Structure

Researchers have found that when women have children, their potential ability to earn as much as men sharply decreases (Coleman & Salt, 1992; Lewis, 1997, 2001; Clarke & Henwood, 1997, Kennedy & McCormack 1997), despite measures to prevent discrimination against employees due to gender and marital status (e.g. the Equal Pay Act 1970, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Employment Act 1989 and Employment Rights Act 1996).

In conjunction with reduced earning ability, researchers (e.g. Clarke & Henwood, 1997) also suggest that the expense involved in child raising, the increased effectiveness and availability of contraception and the perceived constraints that marriage and children bring, have led many young women to opt for the single life (with or without children) or to form a couple but not have children. Both these choices will reduce the average household size.

Scotland is one of many countries in Europe with a rapidly ageing population. An ageing population also reduces household size, and there has been a rapid expansion in the number of people over the age of 65 and women over the age of 75. In addition, because of changes in lifestyle and advances in medical science the number of fit and healthy pensioners is rising with an increase in the number of households containing a person of pensionable age. Although the number of one person households consisting of a person of pensionable age has increased between 1981 and 2001, it has increased by less than other age groups. As a result, the proportion of one person households which consist of pensioners actually fell between 1981 and 2001. This is likely to reflect people living longer, resulting in more households consisting of pensioner couples rather than single pensioners.