Number of People per Household in Ireland Larger than other European countries: Driven by Younger Population and Socio-Demographic Factors

New research published today by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), and funded by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, compares the trends in household size (number of persons per household) in Ireland to other European countries for the period 2005-2021.

The research also explores what factors might explain differences between Ireland and other countries such as socio-demographic characteristics, economic factors and other influences. Understanding the drivers of household size is crucial as it is a critical input into any assessment of new household formation which is a key component of housing demand requirements contained in the National Planning Framework and National Development Plan.

Key findings:

  • Ireland has a high average household size on a cross-country basis and this pattern has remained over the past 20 years.
  • This finding is strongly influenced by demographics, with a high fertility rate, younger population and thus a high share of households with children important factors in explaining the cross-country trends.
  • In terms of policy implications, Ireland's relatively high household size will likely persist as long as favourable demographic features are present (such as a high birth rate and young population) compared to other countries. Household size is likely to decline over time in line with population ageing.
  • We do find a role for higher housing supply to put downward pressure on household size, thus while changes in household size are likely to be driven primarily by demographics, changes in housing supply are likely to impact the rate at which this happens.

Commenting on the report, author Dr Conor O’Toole of the ESRI stated: “Ireland has a greater number of persons per household relative to other European countries mainly due to a younger population. As the population ages, household size is likely to decline once sufficient, and suitable, housing is available.”  

Commenting on the report, author Dr Rachel Slaymaker of the ESRI stated: “Households in Ireland headed by over 65s are similar in size to their European counterparts. In contrast, middle-aged and particularly younger households are typically larger in Ireland”.