Updated based on 2019 figures from the Office for National Statistics

Figures released by the ONS shows the structure of UK families and households is continually changing shape and this affects the way we live in our homes and the type of products we will buy for our homes

The latest published figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2019 there were 19.2 million families* in the UK – a statistic that represents an increase of 0.4% on the previous year, and an increase of 6.8% over the decade from 2009 to 2019.

Percentage of families by family type in each region of England & UK constituent counties.

Families by family type in region ONS figures

Source: Office For National Statistics, Labour Force Survey

The number of households** also grew by 0.9% since the previous year to 27.8 million in 2019 – an increase of 6.8% over the last 10 years.

But what do those families and households look like?
Here are five key facts to take away from the latest Office of National Statistics data.

#1. Married or civil partner couples were the most common family type in 2019

Opposite-sex and same-sex married or civil partner couples remain the most common family type in 2019, and represent two-thirds of all families in the UK (12.8 million).

Demographic Trend: Opposite-sex and same-sex married or civil partner couples remain the most common family type in 2019 and represent 2/3rds of all families in the UK (12.8m) Click To Tweet

Cohabiting couple families were the second-largest family type at 3.5 million, followed by lone parent families at 2.9 million.

In 2019, married and civil partner couple families accounted for the largest share of families with dependent children*** (61.4%), while cohabiting couples accounted for 16.3% of families with dependent children.

Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of married or civil partner couples (72%) and the lowest proportion of cohabiting couples (9.4%).

#2. Same-sex married couples are the fastest-growing type of same-sex family

Note: The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 legalised same-sex marriage in England and Wales from 13 March 2014 and from 16 December 2014 in Scotland.

In 2019 the number of same-sex families in the UK has risen by 40% to 212,000 since 2015. Same-sex cohabiting couples remain the most common type of same-sex family, but this has decreased from 59.6% in 2015 to 51.6% in 2019, driven by the growing number of same-sex married couple families.

However, the broader picture is different and overall the UK is seeing a declining trend in the proportion of the population who are married and an increasing trend in the proportion who are cohabiting.

Demographic Trend: Overall the UK is seeing a declining trend in the proportion of the population who are married and an increasing trend in the proportion who are cohabiting. Click To Tweet

#3. The number of lone-parent fathers is growing faster than lone-parent mothers

In 2019, 2.9 million (14.9%) of the families in the UK were lone-parent families, with London having the highest proportion, and lone-parent families accounting for 22.3% of families with dependent children.

While lone-parent mothers remained the most common type accounting for 86% of lone parents, from 1999 to 2019, the number of lone-parent fathers has grown by 22%.

The number of lone-parent mothers has also increased but at a slower rate (13.4%).

Demographic Trend: The number of lone-parent fathers is growing faster than lone-parent mothers Click To Tweet

#4. In 2019 there were 8.2 million people living alone

The number of people living alone has increased by a fifth over the last 20 years, from 6.8 million in 1999 to 8.2 million in 2019.

According to the ONS the majority of this increase is driven by the growth in the numbers of men living alone (72.1%), who are predominantly aged between 45 and 64 years.

Among the reasons for this could be the fact that higher proportions of men never marry, and also that following the dissolution of a partnership, any children from the relationship tend to live with the women.

Of all one-person households in the UK, just under half contain somebody aged 65 years and over. According to Age UK, in this age-group, women are more likely than men to live alone.

Demographic Trend: Of all one-person households in the UK, just under half contain somebody aged 65 years and over, with women more likely to live alone than men Click To Tweet

London had the lowest proportion of one-person households compared with other UK regions in 2019.

#5. Multi-family households are the fastest-growing type of household in the UK

Although they currently represent the smallest share of households, households that consist of two or more families were the fastest-growing household type over the last two decades to 2019.

They grew by three-quarters from 170,000 in 1999 to 297,000 households in 2019 – an increase that the ONS describes as ‘statistically significant’.

Families in these households may be unrelated – for example two couples house sharing, or related in some way – for example a couple with their child and their partner.

Demographic Trend: Multi-family households currently represent the smallest share of households, but they are the fastest-growing household type over the last 2 decades Click To Tweet

The number of multi-generational families choosing to live together to afford housing, share childcare responsibilities or care for older relatives could be behind the growth in the number of multi-family households

 What you should know:

  • A family* is a married, civil partnered or cohabiting couple with or without children, or a lone parent, with at least one child, who live at the same address. Children may be dependent or non-dependent.
  • A household** can be one person living alone, a family, or a group of people (not necessarily related) living at the same address who share cooking facilities and share a living room, sitting room or dining area. A household can consist of more than one family, or no families in the case of a group of unrelated people.
  • Dependent children*** are those aged under 16 living with at least one parent, or aged 16 to 18 in full-time education, excluding all children who have a spouse, partner or child living in the household. Non-dependent children are those living with their parent(s) and either aged 19 or over, or 16 to 18 and not in full-time education, or who have a spouse, partner or child living in the household.
  • Once a person either lives with a partner or has a child, they are considered to have formed their own family and are no longer counted as being part of their parents’ family even if they still live in the same household.

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