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A household may contain a single person living alone, or two or more people who usually live together and share facilities, either as families (couples, parents with children) or as groups of individuals flatting together. There were 1.45 million households in New Zealand at the 2006 Census, an increase of 8 percent over the number recorded in 2001 and 34 percent higher than the number in 1986.

Twenty-eight percent of households contained couples without children in 2006, 30 percent contained two-parent families with children, 12 percent were one-parent family households, 3 percent contained more than one family, 5 percent comprised a group of individuals and 23 percent were one-person households. 

Figure P4 Distribution of households, by household type, 1986–2006

Figure P4 Distribution of households, by household type, 1986–2006

Source: Statistics New Zealand 

Couple-only and one-person households are the fastest growing household types and are projected to increase the most over the next 15 years. Population ageing is the major factor behind both of these changes. But declining fertility and the closing gap between male and female life expectancy are also contributing to the rising number of couples without children. Delayed marriage, divorce and changing lifestyle preferences are other factors contributing to the growing number of one-person households.