Report: Wisconsin families shrinking faster than rest of US



(The Center Square) – A new report says Wisconsin is outpacing the rest of the country when it comes to smaller families.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum is out with a new report that says Wisconsin families have shrunk faster than other states for about the last 50 years.

“For the United States, the average household size in 1970 was 3.11 people, U.S. Census Bureau data show. That number has declined every decade since, reaching a low of 2.55 in 2020, an 18.1% drop over the five decades,” the report notes. “In Wisconsin, this decline was even more stark. Our state’s average household size in 1970 was 3.22 but declined to 2.36 by 2020 – a 26.7% drop.”

The report says longer lives and a shift away from larger families both contribute to the change.

Wisconsin is not alone in the shift to smaller families.

The Policy Forum report notes many other states are seeing declines as well.

“Wisconsin saw the fourth-largest percentage drop of any state in average household size from 2000 to 2020, and the fifth-largest decline from 2010 to 2020,” the report added. “In 2020, the state with the largest average household size was Utah (3.04), while Vermont had the smallest (2.27). Wisconsin, at 2.36, ranked 45th-largest among the 50 states. The 2020 ranking stands in stark contrast to Wisconsin’s rank of 15th among the states in 1970.”

Data shows that the 1970s, as a decade, saw the largest decline in household size.

While family sizes in Wisconsin have shrunk, the report shows that Wisconsin has seen its number of one-person households spike.

“From 1970 to 2020, the share of total households nationally that were single-person households increased from 17.6% to 27.6%, a rise of 57.2%,” the Policy Forum noted. “Unsurprisingly, given the other trends discussed, Wisconsin’s increase in this share has been larger than nationally. Our state went from 16.9% single-person households in 1970 to 30.3% in 2020, a 78.7% increase.”

The report draws two conclusions from the numbers.

One, that Wisconsin should embrace more apartments and smaller homes.

“This points toward one of the most significant implications of these trends: how they affect our housing needs, and how current housing demand squares with existing housing inventory. Broadly speaking, it means we need more – but smaller – units than what our current housing stock provides,” the report states.

And two, that smaller families look to have a social cost.

“Another impact that may be felt from declining household size relates to the broadly documented trend in the United States toward increasing levels of social disconnection and loneliness,” the authors wrote. “A recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office noted that surveys show increases from 2003 to 2020 in the amount of time Americans say they spend alone. The Surgeon General’s report points to ‘overall declines in some of the critical structural elements of social connection (e.g., marital status, household size), which helps to explain increases in reported loneliness and social isolation and contributes to the overall crisis of connection we are experiencing.’”



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