Posted by: Josh Lehner | February 10, 2023

Fun Friday: Household Composition in Oregon

One benefit of downloading a lot of household data to create different measures of housing cost burdens, like residual income and MIT’S Living Wage, is, well, you have a lot of Census data at your fingertips. Let’s have some fun ahead of the weekend and Super Bowl.

First, let’s revisit middle school. No, not like that. In a fun, math way. Remember mean, median, and mode? The mean, is the average. The median is the midpoint where half of all observations are smaller and half are larger. The mode is the most common observation. See? It is fun. These measures do matter.

Next, let’s talk about Oregon’s population. In 2021, Oregon’s median age was 40.1 years old according to Census. Half us were younger than that and half of us were older than that. The median age nationwide was 38.8. By this measure, Oregon ranks as the 14th oldest state. Based on our office’s estimates, the mode — the single most common age — in 2021 was 30 years old. That means today the most common age in Oregon is 32 years old, as the bulk of the large Millennial cohort enters into their prime-working and first-time homebuying years.

Finally, let’s talk about Oregon households. In 2021, Oregon had 1.7 million households. The average household had 2.44 people, ranking the 15th smallest among all states and lower than the 2.54 national average. That relative difference may not seem like much but it is roughly equivalent to 70,000 households locally. That is 3-4 years of new construction activity. And given the household formation boom during the pandemic when people dropped roommates, 2021 household size is smaller than the 2.5 average size in Oregon and 2.6 average size nationally pre-pandemic. Even so, today’s average household size is what it was back in 2010 or so.

The mode household Oregon, or the most common type is a 2 adult household with no young children living at home. A bit more than 1 in 3 households in the state fit that description. Remember for the mode it’s not that it describes the majority of us, but rather the most common. And if we dig into the composition of 2 adult households, 66 percent are married couples, another 15 percent are unmarried partners, 11 percent are other relatives like siblings, or adult children, while the remaining 7 percent are two unrelated roommates.

If we line up all Oregon households from smallest to largest, and youngest to oldest, the median household in Oregon is a 70 year old married couple without children at home. And if we add an urban-rural dimension to the typical household in Oregon, this 70 year old married couple lives in Springfield.

A few other observations.

The dated stereotype of the 2 parent, 2 child household is just 7 percent of all households today in the state. Now, part of this is the simple life cycle trajectory. Even if a household at one point is a 2 parent, 2 child household, that time, given life expectancies and kids moving out as they get older etc, is likely just about 20-25 percent of their lifetime, which can be bittersweet when you think about it like that. And so taking a snapshot of all households today is great, but it does miss how our lives evolve over time.

Lastly, it is clear that households with no young children (18 or younger) are more common than those with kids at home. Part of that is the age structure, part is the lower birth rate and the like. But you can see that single-person households are the second most common type of household, and we know that single-person households are a growing share of our society.

Have a good weekend everybody.


  1. How are college students accounted for?

    Also, as you point out, and individual household’s composition changes over time. So is there any way to determine whether a household was for some period, e.g., a “stereotypical” 2 adults and 2 (or more kids)?

    It would also be interesting to have a table of HH composition and number of separate sleeping areas.

    All of the above (and trends) would be very helpful in more accurate planning for housing needs than just a questionable conclusion from *average* HH size.

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