Friday, June 15, 2012

The shrinking Singapore household

In November 2011, HDB chief executive Cheong Koon Hean stated that while HDB flats have become smaller in size, the average household size has likewise fallen. As a result, the amount of space enjoyed by each person has increased, and each individual is better off despite living in smaller homes. This got me curious - while it comes to no surprise that households today are shrinking, does this trend differ across house sizes?

I found out using data from the Department of Statistics. Movements in household sizes are shown in chart below. Each arm in the "web" represents the average household size for each type of dwelling, and I've plotted this over 1980, 1995, and 2010.

Source: Department of Statistics
In 1980, household sizes barely differed across dwellings. A 1 or 2-room flat housed 4.1 people on average, only 0.8 less people than a family living in a landed property. In fact, 3 and 4-room flats were home to more people, on average, than private homes.

Over the years, household sizes shrunk across the board, but more so for HDB dwellers than private property dwellers. The blue lines, representing household sizes in 1980, formed quite a symmetric hexagon. However, the red lines, reflecting household sizes in 2010, was quite skewed towards landed properties. 

As a result, the smaller the dwelling, the larger the drop in household size. Between 1980 and 2010, the average household size of the smallest HDB flats dropped by half, whereas that in landed properties fell by only 10%. 

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