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household‘a single person or a group of people who have the address as their only or main residence and who either share one meal a day or share living accommodation’ (The Office of Population Censuses and Surveys). Nonrelated members are problematic in this definition, and sociologists have used two main types of household composition in discussing households:
- those based on the familial structure of the household, which identify the number, size and types of family in that household;
- those based on the age and sex structure, which identify the numbers of children, adults and, sometimes, people of pensionable age in the household.
The CENSUS uses both of these types. Different versions of the second type are used in the FAMILY EXPENDITURE SURVEY and the GENERAL HOUSEHOLD SURVEY. In the Census, the selection of the HEAD OF HOUSEHOLD is left to respondents to choose according to the criterion of ‘chief economic supporter’.
These definitions closely relate household composition to family composition, and new types of social organization, such as flat sharing, sheltered accommodation for the elderly and student accommodation, call into question the adequacy of this type of definition. Critics have also queried the usefulness of the head of household definition since it is often assumed that a man is the head of the household regardless of the social position of any women living in the same household. See also HOMELESSNESS.