Contact: Melanie Deal
Public Information Office
In 2010, there were 22.0 million shared households in the United States, an 11.4 percent increase from 2007, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report. This total of shared households accounted for 18.7 percent of all households, up from 17.0 percent in 2007.
The report, Sharing a Household: Household Composition and Economic Well-Being: 2007-2010 [PDF], analyzes data on household composition and income from the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey. The report reveals that adults joined or combined their households in greater numbers and in higher proportions following the most recent recession than they did prior to the recession.
In spring 2007, there were 19.7 million shared households — defined as a household with at least one “additional” adult. An additional adult is a person 18 or older who is not enrolled in school and is neither the householder, the spouse nor the cohabiting partner of the householder. By spring 2010, the number of shared households had increased to 22.0 million while all households increased by only 1.3 percent.
“Although reasons for household sharing are not discernible from the survey, our analysis suggests that adults and families coped with challenging economic circumstances over the course of the recession by joining households or combining households with other individuals or families,” said Laryssa Mykyta, an analyst in the Census Bureau’s Poverty Statistics Branch and one of the authors of the report.
The report compares official poverty rates to personal and household poverty rates. Official poverty rates compare total family income with a threshold that varies with family size and composition. Household poverty rates compare household income with the relevant threshold. Personal poverty rates compare the income of the individual, couple or subfamily with the relevant threshold.
For adults heading shared households, both official and household poverty rates for 2010 were lower than for their counterparts in other households.
This contrasts with personal poverty rates. Personal poverty was 8.2 percentage points higher for householders in shared households than for householders who were not in shared households in 2010 (21.7 percent and 13.5 percent, respectively).
The difference between official and personal poverty rates was more dramatic for additional adults. While 15.7 percent of these adults were classified as in poverty using the official measure, 45.9 percent had personal income below their poverty threshold.
“It is difficult to assess the precise impact of household sharing on economic well-being,” Mykyta said, “but the higher personal poverty rates for adults heading shared households suggests that this group has fewer individual resources than their counterparts. However, lower official and household poverty rates among adults who head a shared household suggest that household sharing lessened economic strain.”
Household sharing reflects household composition at the time of the survey. The Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey is conducted each year from February through April. The 2007 survey was conducted before the recession began in December 2007 and the 2010 survey was collected after the end of the recession in June 2009.
For more information about the Annual Social and Economic Supplement of the Current Population Survey, visit: <http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/index.html#cps>.
The Census Bureau reports poverty data from several major household surveys and programs. For more information visit: <http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/index.html>.