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The demographic evolution of U.S. households

5 min read


The composition of the American household is changing. People often focus on the growing, diverse populations of Hispanics, blacks and Asians as well as an increase in the multiracial and ethnic populations. However, household size and makeup is also changing. Husband, wife, 2.5 kids, and a dog is no longer the norm. Households are now much more varied with single-parent, multi-generational, non-family, and one-person households comprising a larger portion of the population.

Non-family households have also increased greatly. In 2010, 33.6% of U.S. households were identified as non-family — people living together who are not related and not married. Most non-family households are people who live alone. In 2010, 26.7% of all households were people living alone, up from 25.8% in 2000.

Husband and wife households are declining as a percentage of the population. In 2000, 51.7% of households were husband and wife, decreasing to 48.4% in 2010.

Multi-generational households are on the rise. In 2000, 3.7% of all households were multi-generational, increasing to 4.4% in 2010.

Where are all these household types living? Does it vary by location?

One-person households

Households of people living alone increased between 2000 and 2010 by number and percentage. According to the Census Bureau, there were 27.2 million single-person households in 2000. That increased to 31.2 million in 2010. In some ways, this is surprising. When the economy worsens, more people would live with family or roommates instead of venturing out on their own. Instead, the statistics show more people are deciding to live alone.

ZIP codes with high percentages of one-person households exist all around the country. Some ZIP codes of note include:

ZIP Code City % of 1-Person HH
90013 Los Angeles, California 76.5%
64105 Kansas City, Kansas 72.7%
50309 Des Moines, Iowa 71.0%
37219 Nashville, Tennessee 70.0%

ZIP codes with low percentages of one-person households include:

ZIP Code City % of 1-Person HH
42223 Fort Campbell, Kentucky 4.1%
84005 Eagle Mountain, Utah 4.9%
92236 Coachella, California 5.7%
22039 Fairfax Station, Virginia 6.1%
Click on image to enlarge map.

Esri, a geographic information systems company, has developed the Tapestry Segmentation system that classifies U.S. residential neighborhoods into 65 unique market segments based on socioeconomic and demographic characteristics.

According to Tapestry data, many neighborhoods with a high percentage of one-person households are dominated by Tapestry segments Metro Renters and Social Security Set. Metro Renters are young, well-educated singles just beginning their professional careers and live in some of the largest U.S. cities such as New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. Many residents of these neighborhoods live alone. Social Security Set communities are dispersed among business districts and around city parks in large U.S. cities. Most of these older residents subsist on low, fixed incomes and live alone in subsidized, rented apartments in low‐rent, high‐rise buildings.

Husband/wife households

Households consisting of husbands and wives decreased as a percentage of U.S. households but increased in number. In 2000, there were 54.5 million husband/wife households, according to the Census Bureau. That increased to 56.5 million in 2010. At the same time, the number of unmarried, opposite-sex partners grew from 4.8 million in 2000 to 7.7 million in 2010. By percentage, the unmarried, opposite-sex partner households increased from 4.6% of all households in 2000 to 5.9% in 2010.

Not surprisingly, husband/wife households are found all over the U.S. States with the highest percentage of husband/wife households are Utah (61%), Idaho (55.3%) and New Hampshire (52.1%).

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Many neighborhoods with high percentages of husband/wife households are dominated by Tapestry segment Military Proximity. Residents in these neighborhoods depend on the military for their livelihood. Most of the labor force is in the Armed Forces, while others work in civilian jobs on military bases.

Multi-generational households

Multi-generational households are often a topic of interest as the dynamic is much different from others. A multi-generational household has three or more generations of relatives living together. According to the Census Bureau, multi-generational households are more likely to reside in areas where new immigrants live with their relatives. Housing shortages or high housing costs force families to double up. Other areas might include relatively high percentages of children born to unmarried mothers who end up living with their children in their parents’ homes.

Hawaii has the nation’s highest percentage of multi-generational households at 8.8%. This is followed by California at 6.7% and Texas at 5.8%. In general, ZIP codes in the southern part of the U.S. and California have higher percentages of multi-generational households than in other parts of the nation. This aligns with areas of high percentages of minority populations such as Hispanics and blacks.

Click on image to enlarge map.

Neighborhoods dominated by Tapestry segments Las Casas, Urban Villages, and Southwestern Families are likely to have many multi-generational households. Las Casas residents are the latest wave of Western pioneers. Settled primarily in California, approximately half were born outside the U.S. Most of these households are comprised of young, Hispanic families. Urban Villages neighborhoods are multicultural enclaves of young families unique to U.S. “gateway” cities. They are also found primarily in California. The average family size in these neighborhoods is 4.16 people. Southwestern Families households are ethnically diverse and the bedrock of Hispanic culture in the Southwest.

Why this matters

Retailers, product developers and service providers must adapt as traditional husband, wife and kids households evolve into one-person, single householders, multi-generational, single-parent, non-related, and other household types. Opportunities abound for companies to develop, package, market and sell their products and services to these new household types. Retailers and service providers who understand household changes will succeed in these evolving markets.

For example, single-person householders may want to shop at Costco, but don’t need bulk items. Multi-generational households need larger sizes and more variety of products to accommodate residents from several generations. Single-parent or single-person senior households may need additional help with child care or other services.

More information about Esri’s data can be found at To learn more about Esri in general, go to

Pam Allison is a digital media, marketing strategist, and location intelligence consultant. You can visit her blog at