Learn More: Household Characteristics

What does this mean?

Household characteristics are used by the US Census to categorize the household by the type of relationship the people that live in that unit share and/or the gender of the person responsible for maintaining the household. One household includes all the people who occupy a housing unit as their usual place of residence.

The household characteristics presented on the Community Atlas come from the 2010 Census Summary File 1 table for "Household Size By Household Type By Presence of Own Children" (P19). Households are defined by the Census as: "Households are classified by type according to the sex of the householder and the presence of relatives. Examples include: married-couple family; male householder, no wife present; female householder, no husband present; spouse (husband/wife); child; and other relatives." The householder is typically the person in whose name the home is owned or rented.

For presentation on the Community Atlas, we have grouped the data into eight categories to describe the household characteristics:

1-Person Household: A household occupied by one person.

Non-Family Households, with 2 or more people: A household occupied by two or more people who are not related. (The U.S. Census defines a family relationship through birth, marriage or adoption.)

Married Couple Family, with own children under 18: A household with a family that is related to the householder through birth, marriage or adoption. A married couple is defined as a householder and spouse that occupy the same home. An own child is defined as a never-married child under 18 years who is a son or daughter of the householder by birth, marriage (a stepchild), or adoption.

Married Couple Family, no own children under 18: A household with a family that is related to the householder through birth, marriage or adoption. A married couple is defined as a householder and spouse that occupy the same home. No own children can be understood as there not being any children under 18 years who is a son or daughter of the householder by birth, marriage (a stepchild), or adoption. However, there might be children under 18 in the household who are relatives or non-relatives. Additionally, there might not be any children under 18 at all in the household.

Male householder (no wife present), with own children under 18: A household with a male maintaining it and no wife of the householder present. An own child is defined as a never-married child under 18 years who is a son or daughter of the householder by birth, marriage (a stepchild), or adoption.

Male householder (no wife present), no own children under 18: A household with a male maintaining it and no wife of the householder present. No own children can be understood as there not being any children under 18 years who is a son or daughter of the householder by birth, marriage (a stepchild), or adoption. However, there might be children under 18 in the household who are relatives or non-relatives. Additionally, there might not be any children under 18 at all in the household.

Female householder (no husband present), with own children under 18: A household with a female maintaining it and no husband of the householder present. An own child is defined as a never-married child under 18 years who is a son or daughter of the householder by birth, marriage (a stepchild), or adoption.

Female householder (no husband present), no own children under 18: A household with a female maintaining it and no husband of the householder present. No own children can be understood as there not being any children under 18 years who is a son or daughter of the householder by birth, marriage (a stepchild), or adoption. However, there might be children under 18 in the household who are relatives or non-relatives. Additionally, there might not be any children under 18 at all in the household.


Definitions taken from U.S. Census Glossary.

Why is it important?

It is important to understand the types of households that exist to help explain the needs and characteristics of a community. By understanding what types of households make up a community, you can better identify particular needs. For example, communities that have families with children under 18 might be responsive to after-school activities.

How are the data collected (methods)?

Every ten years the U.S. Census Bureau conducts its official population count of the United States. (It is referred to as the Decennial Census.) The most recent census was conducted in 2010. The U.S. Census Bureau collects this data in two ways. They first send out a mail-in census form. For those people who do not return their mail-in forms, the Census Bureau sends people to those homes to administer the form in person.

There are two census forms used during the Decennial Census. The first is the short-form, which is asked of every person and housing unit in the United States. On this form are a limited number of questions (Age, Hispanic or Latino origin, Household Relationship, Home Ownership, Number of People, Race, and Sex). The second is the American Community Survey (ACS), which is given to a sample of the population to ask more detailed questions on population, housing, and other social and economic characteristics. The information collected in the ACS is then estimated for the entire population annually.

The data from the short and ACS forms are made public through the U.S. Census Bureau.
Source: U.S. Census – Factfinder

Caveats and Limitations

When using these data, please consider the following:

  • We chose Census 2010 data to include on the Community Atlas because it is most appropriate for smaller geographic areas such as neighborhoods. More current population estimates, such as those from the American Community Survey (ACS), are typically for the county or municipalities as a whole, not communities or neighborhoods. If you choose to use this data, please keep in mind that it is an estimate.
  • The data presented are from the 2010 Redistricting Data SF and Summary File 1 which were based on an attempt to count all citizens. This methodology has generally been well received with a higher than expected mail-in response rate of 72 percent. Additional information on the Census 2010 methodology can be found on the Census Bureau website.
  • The data presented do not reflect the presence or number of children in a household. They only reflect the presence of householder’s own children. If you choose to use this data, do not assume that "no own children" means no children under 18 years of age living in that housing unit. It means that the there are no related children under 18 years of age living in that housing unit.
  • The data has been reapportioned from the original boundaries provided to us in order to develop estimates for neighborhoods and communities. This has been done because not all data is reported for the same boundaries as the neighborhoods and communities on the Community Atlas. When using these data, view them as estimates for these neighborhoods and communities.

Frequently Asked Questions

Additional Information

  • Decennial Census - About the Data - Explains the decennial census: why it is important, what data is collected, and how the data is used.
  • U.S. Census Bureau - Serves as the leading source of quality data about the nation's people and economy; the results of the decadal census are used to determine political representation at the federal and state level.
  • U.S. Census Bureau Glossary of Terms - Searchable list of terms used to describe demographic data.