Academic journal article Demographic Research

Household Composition across the New Europe: Where Do the New Member States Fit In?

Academic journal article Demographic Research

Household Composition across the New Europe: Where Do the New Member States Fit In?

Article excerpt


In this paper we present indicators of household structure for 26 of the 27 countries of the post-enlargement European Union. As well as broad indicators of household type, we present statistics on single-person and extended-family households, and on the households of children and older people. Our main aim is to assess the extent to which household structure differs between the "old" and "new" Member States of the European Union. We find that most of the Eastern European countries may be thought of as lying on the same North-North-Western-Southern continuum defined for the "old" EU Member States, and constituting an "extreme form" of the Southern European model of living arrangements, which we term the "Eastern" model. However, the Baltic states do not fit easily onto this continuum.

1. Introduction

This paper maps variations in household structure across the countries of the newly enlarged European Union, and assesses similarities and differences between household structure in the new Member States and those observed elsewhere in the EU.

Household structures across the pre-enlargement EU-15 have been extensively documented (Andersson 2002; Robson and Berthoud 2003; Iacovou 2004; Tomassini et al. 2004 and many others). A number of studies have also included one or more Eastern European countries (Keilman 1987; Hantrais, Philipov, and Billari 2006; Gerber 2009; Hoem et al. 2009), but these analyses were based on surveys such as the Family and Fertility survey and the Gender and Generations survey, which include only a limited subset of the new EU Member States. A smaller number of studies have covered most or all of the countries of the enlarged EU: Mandic (2008) dealt with home-leaving; Liefbroer and Fokkema (2008) looked at fertility; Saraceno (2008) provided an overview of household structure in a number of different age groups, as well as some statistics on labour market status and time use; and Fokkema and Liefbroer (2008) examined trends in living arrangements between 1987 and 2002.

We build on this work by presenting detailed household-level indicators of living arrangements, and providing a close examination of specific living arrangements, including extended-family structures, which differ widely across Europe. Our paper is based on the 2008 European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), which at the time of writing covers all countries of the expanded European Union, except for Malta. Being a general-purpose data set, the EU-SILC does not allow for the detailed investigation of family formation patterns that some other data sets provide. However, its strength lies in the scope of its coverage, which makes it possible to draw comparisons of many aspects of family structure over almost the entire post-enlargement European Union. We therefore believe that this paper provides a unique resource.

A primary focus of our study is assessing whether it is possible to integrate the (predominantly Eastern European) new Member States into typologies of family structure currently in use for the countries of Western Europe, or whether behaviour in some or all of these countries differs so substantially from behaviour elsewhere in the "old" Member States that it is necessary to think in terms of an expanded typology.

The work of Hajnal (1965, 1982) has suggested that household structures may indeed differ systematically between "old" and "new" EU Member States. Hajnal noted an east-west division in European family formation patterns: specifically, that the regions east of a line from St. Petersburg to Trieste have historically been characterised by relatively early and near-universal marriage and a high percentage of "joint" households; while the regions to the west of the line have been characterised by later marriage, a higher proportion of individuals remaining unmarried, and a predominance of "simple" households. Of the 11 new Member States we consider, two (Estonia and the Czech Republic) lie on the Hajnal line, but with most of their area lying to the west of the line; four (Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Slovenia) lie on the Hajnal line; and five (Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus) lie to the east of the line. …

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