Families and households shape and define our society. The decade 2001 to 2011 saw significant social change in England and Wales- the number of single (never married) people increased as the population has increased, as did the number of people cohabiting or living alone (many of these may be single). The number of concealed families also increased, perhaps due to the recession in 2008 and increasing house prices.

Increase in single people since 2001

Marital status of people aged 16 and over, 2001 and 2011, England and Wales

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The decade 2001 to 2011 was characterised by an increase in proportion of single people and a decline in the proportion of people who were married. The proportion of people who were widowed also decreased- this was most likely due to increases in life expectancy, particularly for men.

The increase in the single population was partly made up of couples who chose to live together without entering into a marriage or civil partnership.

In 2001, 4.0 million people aged 16+ (9.8%) were living in a cohabiting couple. There have been increases in the cohabiting population across all but the youngest age groups since 2001.

In 2011, 12% of people were in a cohabiting couple (5.3 million people).

Areas with the highest proportions of single people tended to be those with relatively young populations because of the link between marital status and age. This was particularly notable within London - Islington was the area with the highest proportion of single people at 60%.

Women aged 85+ most likely to live alone

Sex distribution of those living alone by age, 2011, England and Wales

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There has been an increase in the number of people who live alone, from 6.5 million in 2001 to 7.1 million in 2011. Those aged 65 and over who were living alone were mostly women (69%), with the percentage increasing from 63% at ages 65-74 to 76% for those aged 85 and over. This is likely due to the longer life expectancy of women compared with men.

There were 23.4 million households in England and Wales in 2011, an increase of around 1.7 million (7.9%) since 2001. Over this period the proportion of households with dependent children has remained stable at around 29% (6.8 million).

Fewer stepfamilies with dependent children than in 2001

Families with dependent children by family type, 2011, England and Wales

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In 2011, there were 544,000 stepfamilies with dependent children in England and Wales, representing 8.0% of all families with dependent children. In 2001 9.9% of all families with dependent children were step families (631,000). There was an overall decrease in the proportion of couple families with dependent children, and a corresponding increase in lone parent families.

The percentage of stepfamilies with dependent children who were married increased by 7.8% between 2001 and 2011.

70% increase in concealed families since 2001

Concealed families by family type, 2011, England and Wales

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A concealed family is one living in a multi-family household in addition to the primary family. For example, a young couple living with their parents.

The number of concealed families, has increased to 289,000 (1.8% of all families) in 2011, up 70% since 2001 when there were 170,000 (1.2%). This increase was likely due to the economic downturn, with many people struggling to afford accommodation. Concealed families are mostly made up of couples with no children (44.3%) or lone parents (36.9%). This kind of information is useful for assessing housing demand.

Possible effects of the economic downturn can also be seen in other household types, not just those including concealed families. The number of young adults living with their parents has increased which in turn has caused an increase in one family households with non-dependent children only. Households of unrelated adults have also increased since 2001, indicating house sharing has become more common.


Visit the 2011 Census Analysis website for more information on what the 2011 Census told us about England and Wales, or contact