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289,000 concealed families in England and Wales in 2011

Latest Census analysis shows 70% increase in concealed families

The latest census analysis reveals there were 289,000 concealed families in 2011, making up 1.8% of all families (15.8 million) in England and Wales. A concealed family is a family living in a multi-family household, in addition to the primary family. Concealed family statistics are a useful indicator of housing demand for house building and planning in the future.

Who are concealed families?

A concealed family can be a couple (with or without children) or a lone parent; an adult child living without a partner or child is not a family.  63% of concealed families were couples (with or without children), and these included young couples living with their parents and older couples living with an adult child and their family. Lone parent families with dependent children were the most frequently concealed family type in both 2001 and 2011, making up 3.3% and 4.3% respectively of all lone parent families with dependent children. These were a very young family category with 40% of Family Reference Persons (FRPs)1 aged under 25. Lone parent families accounted for 37% of concealed families in England and Wales in 2011, with the majority (79%) including dependent children.


Why has the number of concealed families increased?

There has been a 70% increase in concealed families between 2001 and 2011, compared with a 6.6% increase in unconcealed families. Previous ONS research using Labour Force Survey (LFS) data, noted an increase in multi-family households in the UK, of 39% between 2003 and 2013. Reasons for this increase in concealed families can differ between region and age group. Economic reasons include rising house prices in relation to earnings. There may also be cultural traditions, including multi-generational households. Many areas with higher proportions of the population of non-white or mixed ethnic group also have higher proportions of concealed families. Within England and Wales, ‘other households’2 are more than twice as likely to have a Household Reference Person (HRP)3 of non-white or mixed ethnic group (24%) compared with all households (11%).


Where are concealed families most common?

Concealed family proportions have increased in all regions since 2001 with London increasing the most by 1.4 percentage points. London had the highest proportion of concealed families at 3.3%, while the North East had the lowest at 1.3%. Urban areas had the highest proportions of concealed families, such as: Greater London, Slough, Birmingham, Leicester and Blackburn. Twelve of the top 20 areas with concealed families were within Greater London; Newham had the highest proportion at 7.5%. Slough was the highest ranking authority outside London at 5.6% (3rd overall in England and Wales), and in Wales Merthyr Tydfil was highest at 2.0% (58th  overall in England and Wales). The ten LAs with the highest proportions of concealed families also had the highest proportions of the population identifying with a non-white or mixed ethnic group. High proportions of the population of these areas identified as Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi. The high proportions of concealed families in these areas may be a result of closer familial ties in Asian cultures.

West Devon had the highest proportion of concealed families consisting of a couple with no children (65%), 44% of these families had a FRP aged 65 or over. The highest proportion of concealed families who were lone parents was in Knowsley (Merseyside) at 55%, which may be because the age structure is young. The highest proportions of concealed lone parent families were in Newham (8.1%) and Bradford (8.0%), more than double the England and Wales proportion (3.7%). Merthyr Tydfil had the highest proportion in Wales (6.4%) (11th in England and Wales).


Where can I find out more about family statistics? 

These statistics were analysed by Census Analysis Unit, Population Statistics Division at ONS. This analysis is based largely on data from the Census, carried out by ONS. If you would like to find out more about the latest census statistics, you can read the release, view the infographic or visit the Census analysis page. If you have any comments or suggestions, we would like to hear them! Please email us at:

1The Family Reference Person (FRP) is identified by criteria based on the family make up including economic activity, age and order on the census form.
2 ‘Other households’: these are households other than those consisting of one family only, or single person households.
3 Household Reference Person (HRP) uses the same criteria as the FRP;  it replaced the traditional concept of head of the household. HRPs provide an individual person within a household to act as a reference point for producing further derived statistics and for characterising a whole household according to characteristics of the chosen reference person.

Categories: Population, People and Places, Housing and Households, Families, Households, Families, Children and Young People, Family Composition, Families with Children
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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