Italy: Families on the rise but smaller and smaller 

By Alfio Spitaleri, ANFN

In 1971 the families made up of five members or more represented 21.5% of the total number of resident families. In 2019 they make up just over 5%.

Single-member households are growing, amounting to 9,073,852 in 2019, 35.1% of the total against 12.9% in 1971. In other words, about 15% of people usually residing in Italy live alone. This is the data that confirms the trend we have been witnessing for many years now.

As of December 31, 2019, informs Istat, 99.4% of the population surveyed as resident in Italy (59,641,488 individuals) lives in the family while only 382,067 people live together, i.e. they live in welfare institutions, hospices, health care institutions and other collective residences. Compared to the 2011 Census, in line with the trend in recent decades, households increased by 1,239,356 units (+ 5%), going from 24,611,766 to 25,851,122; considering the last 50 years, the increase is almost 10 million (15,981,177 in 1971).

Average number of members per household by geographical distribution (1971 to 2019 censuses). Source: ISTAT

The growth in the number of families has affected all divisions of the country, albeit to varying degrees. In particular, between 2011 and 2019 the highest increase, equal to 6.8%, was recorded in the central regions, the lowest (+ 3.5%) in the two major islands, but they are getting smaller and smallerIn fact, the average number of members falls from 3.35 in 1971 to 2.29 in 2019. In the southern regions, where families are historically more numerous, it stands at 2.5 members, but they were 3.75 in the early years’ 70 and 2.92 at the beginning of the new millennium.

The profound economic, social and cultural transformations that have affected the Peninsula in the half-century observed, the decline in births, the progressive aging of the population and the consistent entry of foreign citizens have contributed to the strong downsizing of families .

Between 2011 and 2019, the greatest increase in single-member households was recorded in the regions of the Center (+ 21%), where the relative weight of these families went from 10.9% in 1971 to 37.1%, while the North-west confirms its primacy: single-person families rise to 37.7% from 16% in 1971. Single-member families are more widespread in Liguria, Valle D’Aosta – more than four families out of 10 – and in Lazio – 39.3% -; in Puglia and Campania, on the other hand, they are less than three out of 10.

Single person households and households with 6 or more members. 2019 census. Percentage values. Source: ISTAT

Since there is an increase in single-member families, it is not surprising the simultaneous decrease over time in the larger onesIn 1971 the families made up of five members (minimum number to be considered numerous) or more were 3,437,440 and represented 21.5% of the total number of resident families. In 2019 there were only 1,318,804 and they make up just over 5% of the families surveyed.

In the large family association, the perception of this trend has been clear for a long time, the low memberships of recent years and the ever-decreasing number of children among the new member families left no doubt in our minds, and this is confirmed by the fact that even the announcements of new births among member families are rarer than in previous years. Our ‘big family of families’ has also slowed down its growth.

Number of children born in the years from ANFN archive.

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