Steady increase of small households
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Population and Housing Census, households (discontinued)2001



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Steady increase of small households

An increasing number of people are living alone, while couples live as cohabiting couples rather than married couples. Figures from the Population and Housing Census 2001 reveal large regional variations in the distribution of the population in different types of households.

On 3 November 2001 the number of people per household was on average 2.3 persons, against 2.4 in 1990. This change confirms a long-lasting trend towards smaller households. As a comparison an average household consisted of 3.3 persons in 1960.

Large households in Southern and Western Norway, small households in cities and fringe municipalities

Even though Oslo has had a slight reduction in the portion of the smallest households, Oslo had by far the largest portion of small households and less large households compared with other parts of the country. Oslo has 1.9 persons per household. Rogaland and Sogn og Fjordane had 2.5 persons per household.

The largest households are mainly found in Southern and Western Norway, and also in municipalities in the commuting areas around the larger cities. 42 of the 47 municipalities with the highest number of persons per household were found in Southern and Western Norway.

The number of small households is highest in central urban municipalities and in fringe areas. Many municipalities in Northern Norway and large areas in the county Hedmark also have many small households.

The variations in the size of households have a core - periphery dimension within the labour market regions surrounding the larger cities. In urban municipalities the households are generally smaller than in the surrounding municipalities, because families with children, due to various reasons, prefer to live outside the city.

17 per cent of the population lived alone

In Norway 740 000 persons lived alone on 3 November 2001, 17 per cent of the population. One-person households made up 38 per cent of the households an increase from 34 per cent in 1990.

Large variations in Oslo

Oslo is the municipality with most one-person households. More than one fourth of the population lived alone, and more than half of all the households in Oslo consisted of one person. There were, however, large differences between parts of the city. In the inner city approximately two thirds of the households consisted of people living alone. In Søndre Nordstrand the picture is completely different, with only every third household consisting of one person.

26 of the 46 municipalities with the largest portion of one-person households were found in Northern Norway, and 12 in the county Finnmark. Eight of the 46 municipalities had a densely populated area of 15.000 or more inhabitants - including Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim. All municipalities, except one, were either fringe municipalities or city municipalities. Of the 45 municipalities with the lowest portion of one-person households, 35 were surrounding cities with at least 50 000 inhabitants, and nine municipalities were surrounding cities with a population between 15 000 and 50 000 inhabitants.

Those who live alone were mainly found in fringe municipalities and in large cities, especially in the central parts of the cities. In the municipalities surrounding the large cities few people lived alone.

Over 60 per cent lived as couples

Among the country's 3.3 million persons aged 20 and above, 62 per cent lived as couples. Couples include in this context persons who are married, living as registered or cohabiting partners and in the same dwelling. There are large regional differences. In Oslo nearly half of the population did not live as couples. In the neighboring county of Akershus the figure is 33 per cent, which is the lowest in in Norway. It looks like couples in the Oslo/Akershus area have settled in Akershus. In the Oslo/Akershus region 42 per cent did not live as couples. This share is similar to Finnmark and Troms, where 42 and 40 per cent did not live as couples.

80 per cent of the couples are married, including registered partners, and 20 per cent are cohabiting partners. Living as cohabiting partners is a relatively new phenomenon, while many lived together as a cohabiting couple before getting married. Therefore relatively few cohabiting couples are aged 50 and above. Of all the couples aged between 20 and 29, 60 per cent are cohabiting couples. For the age group 30-39, 68 per cent of the couples are married.

Most cohabiting couples in Oslo and in the northern counties

Oslo and the counties from Trøndelag and further north have the highest portion of cohabiting couples. Finnmark was the top of the rank with 26 per cent. Among the municipalities, Gamvik in Finnmark has the largest portion where 32 per cent of the couples are cohabiting ones. Kvitsøy in in the county Rogaland had the lowest portion of cohabiting couples, 6 per cent.

Marriage is best maintained in the coastal counties from Vestfold up to and including Hordaland, and in some municipalities in Nordfjord and Sunnmøre. Nine out of 10 municipalities with the lowest portion of cohabiting couples were found in Rogaland and Vest-Agder, while seven among the 10 municipalities with the highest portion were found in Finnmark.

Six per cent of the households consisted of mother or father with one or more children -nine out of ten were mothers. Finnmark is on top with eight per cent of the households in this category.

The statistics are compiled from the persons' registered addresses per 3 November 2001 (formal address). This means that students who are registered at the their parents' address are counted in with the household of the parents..