Long­term dynamics of household size and their environmental implications


Mason Bradbury, M. Nils PetersonJianguo Liu

Journal or Book Title: Population and Environment

Keywords: Conservation biology; Environmental impact; Household size; IPHoG; Population; Sustainable development

Volume/Issue: Early Online

Year Published: 2014



Little is known about the environmental implications of long-term historical trends in household
size. This paper presents the first historical assessment of global shifts in average household size
based on a variety of datasets covering the period 1600–2000. Findings reveal that developed
nations reached a threshold in 1893 when average household size began to drop rapidly from
approximately 5.0 to 2.5. A similar threshold was reached in developing nations in 1987. With the
notable exceptions of Ireland, and England and Wales in the early 1800s, and India and the
Seychelles in the late 1900s, the number of households grew faster than population size in every
country and every time period. These findings suggest accommodating housing may continue to
pose one of the greatest environmental challenges of the twenty-first century because the impacts
of increased housing present a threat to sustainability even when population growth slows. Future
research addressing environmental impacts of declining household size could use an adapted IPAT
52/11/2014 Long-term dynamics of household size and their environmental implications model, I = PHoG: where environmental impact (I) = population × personal goods (P) + households × household goods (HoG).

DOI: 10.1007/s11111-014-0203-6

Type of Publication: Journal Article