Household size in Ireland: Stylised facts and cross country trends

May 1, 2024
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This Special Article is in press. It is peer reviewed and accepted for publication in the forthcoming Quarterly Economic Commentary, Summer 2024. When the article has been copyedited, this article in press version will be removed and the final version will appear here.

Publication date of in press version: 1 May 2024


This paper uses cross-country data to explore the trends in household size in Ireland and to place these trends in a European context. Using cross country data from the EU-SILC survey, the research presents a range of stylised facts regarding how Ireland differs from other countries and attempts to explore what might explain the variation. We find that Ireland has a high average household size on a cross-country basis. However, this appears to be strongly influenced by demographics, with high fertility rate, younger population and thus high share of households with children important factors in explaining the cross country trends. Indeed, a majority of the differences between Ireland and other countries disappear in a regression setting when socio-demographic and basic economic factors are controlled for. In terms of the change over time in household size, we find little association with time-varying economic factors but, again, a strong effect of aging and the proportion of households with children. We do find a negative relationship with housing supply; any change in household size would be, to a degree, affected by availability of housing. In terms of the long run trend in Irish household size, the level is likely to change in line with population aging i.e. demographic factors are likely to be the most important driver going forward, subject to availability. Projections for future household numbers or housing demand would likely benefit from the deployment of age specific household size trends which allow natural population dynamics to influence household size.