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1367.2 - State and Regional Indicators, Victoria, Dec 2009  
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FEATURE ARTICLE: LIVING ARRANGEMENTS OF VICTORIANS, 2006: A LIFE COURSE PERSPECTIVE


Introduction
Limitations of the analysis
Key variables
Living arrangements in Victoria, 2006
Children and teenagers (ages 0 - 19)
Younger adults (ages 20 - 39)
Middle age (ages 40 - 59)
Older age (ages 60 and above)
Conclusions and recommendations
Definitions
References

INTRODUCTION

Understanding the diversity of living arrangements entered into over the life course of Victorians is of interest to social planners across all tiers of government, academics and social researchers. The propensity to live in particular arrangements at particular ages highlights life transition points where people move from one living arrangement to another. This time of transition is often associated with periods of great change in an individual's life but may also be associated with increased vulnerability. Being able to identify this period of transition could assist in identifying sub-populations at risk and would be useful for developing or testing the efficacy of social policy interventions.

In this article the living arrangements of Victorians are reported using 2006 Census data, with a particular focus on the statistical distribution of these living arrangements for different age cohorts (children and teenagers, younger adults, the middle aged, and older Victorians). Analysis concentrates on household living arrangements by drawing on data regarding the type of family and non-family household structures in which different populations tend to live at different points in their lives. There is further investigation of the differences found in the sub-populations of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, people holding a qualification, and people with a disability. Differences between the experience of males and females are also discussed where relevant.


LIMITATIONS OF THE ANALYSIS

The investigation of Census data was not a longitudinal analysis, rather a snapshot of the population at a point in time which showed aggregate social trends. For this study the focus was on differences in the distribution of living arrangements between different sub-populations. However, to understand the reasons and drivers of an increased propensity to be in particular living arrangements would require further social research.

KEY VARIABLES

Census variables for living arrangements were derived based on the type of household and family structure that an individual belonged to as well as the person's relationship to others in the household. These were derived from Census classifications family composition, which described the make-up of a family, and relationship in household, which described how an individual fits into the household. Household composition was also used for non-family households such as lone persons and group households.

Table 1: Living Arrangements, description and proportion of persons, Victoria, 2006
CategoryDescriptionProportion %
Child at homeChild under 15, dependent student or non-dependent child, who usually resides with his/her parent/s. Includes foster, adopted and step children, otherwise related children under 15, unrelated individuals under 15 and adult children living with their parent/s. In order to be classified as a child, the person can have no identified partner or child of his/her own usually resident in the household.

Child under 15All persons under 15 years of age who usually reside in a private dwelling are defined as children under 15. This also includes relationships such as niece/nephew, grandchild, cousin and unrelated child.
Dependent StudentPerson aged 15-24 years who usually resides with his/her parent/s and attends a secondary or tertiary educational institution as a full-time student.
Non-dependent ChildPerson aged 15 years and over who usually resides with his/her parent/s and is not a full-time student aged 15-24 years.
29.5
In couple with childrenPerson living in a couple relationship (either married or de facto) with a child/children also living in the household.24.1
In couple without childrenPerson living in a couple relationship (either married or de facto) without a child/children living in the household.18.5
Lone parentPerson not living in a couple relationship, with a child/children also living in the household (identified by the child's usual residence). 4.0
Group household memberPerson living in a household containing two or more unrelated people where all persons are aged 15 years and over. 3.2
Lone personPerson living alone aged 15 years and over. 8.8
OtherPersons classified as other related individuals or unrelated individuals living in family households, visitors (from within Australia), persons in not classifiable households, persons in non-private dwellings and persons resident in shipping, migratory or off-shore Census collection districts.11.8
Please note: persons who were not at home on Census night were not given a relationship for their usual household and therefore were coded as visitors.
Data quality statements for Relationship in Household, Family Composition and Household Composition can be found in the Census Dictionary.


The individuals making up the Victorian population come from a diverse range of backgrounds. In order to examine some of this diversity further analysis of several sub-populations of interest was undertaken. In order to examine the living arrangements of the sub-populations assumptions were made about particular Census variables. These have been outlined in a table of definitions at the end of the article. It is important to recognise that the variables used are only one way of describing these sub-populations and should be interpreted as broad level indicators which highlight areas requiring further analysis. The key sub-populations used for discussion were defined as follows:

Table 2: Sub-populations, variables, description and proportion of persons, Victoria, 2006
Sub-populationVariable/sVariable MnemonicDescriptionProportion %
Persons born in a non-main English speaking country (NMESC)Country of Birth of PersonBPLPNMESC is often used as a broad indicator of the population from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. 17.2
Persons with a non-school qualificationNon-School Qualification: Level of Education
Non-School Qualification: Field of Study
QALLP



QALFP
Used to indicate the population who hold a qualification attained outside school (e.g. bachelor degree, diploma).34.3
Persons with need for assistance with core activitiesCore Activity Need for AssistanceASSNPUsed to determine people with a profound or severe disability. 4.2


In contrast to sex and place of birth, differences in education levels and disability are subject to fluctuation over the course of an individual's life. The effect of educational attainment on living arrangements is somewhat confounded by the influences of being a student (particularly for those aged under 30), the ability to undertake additional training at any age, and the change in social norms which have seen participation in education increase (ABS 2006). The proportion of the population with a need for assistance in core activities generally increases with age, and this may differentially impact on the choice of living arrangements at older ages.

Caution should be exercised when interpreting data about persons with a need for assistance for individual ages as analysis was based on small numbers, which has implications for comparability with single year data for other population groups. To overcome this a five point moving average was applied to the data to address volatility. Therefore only general observations were made regarding the transition ages and age-specific proportions.
LIVING ARRANGEMENTS IN VICTORIA, 2006

Through the course of life, people enter into a range of different living arrangements. In 2006, Victorians lived in a diverse range of household living arrangements but were far more likely to be living (graph 1):
  • with their parents up to age 25,
  • in couple relationships with no children from age 26 to 29,
  • as a partner in couple with children families from age 30 until mid fifties,
  • in couples with no children again from mid fifties until early eighties,
  • as lone persons from early to mid eighties,
  • in institutional care or continuing to live alone aged 85 and over.

SELECTED LIVING ARRANGEMENTS BY AGE, VICTORIA - 2006
CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS (AGES 0 - 19)

Evidence from previous studies have highlighted a number of significant trends in the living arrangements of children and teenagers, such as the increasing incidence of children living with one parent (ABS 2001), the decreasing marriage rate (Office for Women 2007), women having children at older ages (Laws and Sullivan 2009) and blended families becoming more common (AIFS 2009). As families have changed there are implications for the range of government and community services that support their needs and wellbeing, such as income support, health and education services, child care, and housing. However, even as family diversity increased (De Vaus and Grey 2004), Victorian children and teenagers were still primarily living at home with both of their parents.

In 2006, the main trends found for Victorian children and teenagers were (graph 1):
  • Most lived as children at home, 74.0% with their couple parents and a further 17.0% living with their lone parent.
  • As they reach their late teens, teenagers started to move out of the family home into group houses (7.7% at 19 years) or to live alone (2.6% at 19 years).

Amongst children aged under 15 (graph 2):
  • Most were the natural or adopted children of their parents, with the majority of these in couple families. As children age into their teens the proportion who were natural or adopted children in couple families fell (from 81.4% at age 1 to 64.0% at age 14), while the proportion in one parent families increased (10.8% to 20.7% at the same ages).
  • Step-child was the second most common child type in couple families, but was uncommon in one parent families. For example at age 7, 4.2% of children in couple families were step-children compared to almost none of the children in lone parent families.

SELECTED CHILD TYPES BY AGE, VICTORIA - 2006, Children and Teenagers 0-15 Years



For the living arrangements of males and females aged 0 to 19:
  • There was little difference between the sexes, especially from ages 0 to 16.
  • Relatively more males were living with their parent/s as non-dependent children in the later teenage years (a difference of 9 percentage points at age 19).
  • More females were living as students at home with their parent/s (a difference of 7 percentage points at age 17).


Persons born in a non-main English speaking country

The main differences in living arrangements for the population born in a NMESC compared to those born in a main English speaking country (MESC) were:
  • NMESC born children and teens were less likely to be living in a one parent family.
  • Until mid teens, there was a greater tendency for NMESC born children to live with their parents in couple families, but in the late teen years this dropped significantly as a greater proportion lived in group houses and alone.
  • From the mid teens there was an increasing number of NMESC born persons who fell into the 'other' category (11.2% to 26.3% from ages 15 to 19). This occurred earlier and was higher than for MESC born Victorians. These people were mainly living in boarding schools, residential colleges or as unrelated individuals living in family households.

The differences in living arrangements between the NMESC and MESC born populations can partly be explained by the high number of international students in Victoria (DEEWR 2008). These students are away from their families, and living alone, sharing with other students either in private rental or more formal student accommodation, or boarding with families.


Persons with a need for assistance

The main similarities and differences in living arrangements of the population who needed assistance with core activity compared to those who didn't need assistance with core activity were:
  • Both persons with and without a need for assistance were predominantly living as children with their parent/s.
  • The main difference between these populations was that a relatively higher proportion of children with a need for assistance lived in one parent families. For example, for those aged 8 to 11 years of age with a need for assistance almost 30% resided in lone parent families (compared to just under 20% for persons with no need for assistance).
YOUNGER ADULTS (AGES 20 - 39)

For most people this is principally a time of transition and change, therefore living arrangements were diverse across this cohort. As young Australians have delayed moving in with a partner later than ever before and have stayed in the family home longer, the key milestones of a young adult's life have been pushed out to older ages (ABS 2009). Changes in the living arrangements of younger adults have often been associated with major changes in their lives, such as starting study or employment, but other factors such as financial security and housing affordability could also come into play (ABS 2009). These changes could be partly influenced by policy drivers, such as income support for students and home ownership incentives.

In 2006, the main findings for Victorians ageing into their twenties and thirties were (graph 1):
  • In their early twenties most were still primarily living as children at home, however as age increased they began to move out of the parental home and, increasingly, to live as part of a couple. At age 22 a substantial proportion lived in couples without children (10.9%). These were mainly de facto relationships until age 27 when registered marriages took precedence.
  • Couples without children became the dominant living arrangement at age 26 (26.1%) and this continued until age 29.
  • Couples with children were the most common living arrangement from age 30.
  • Group household was a common living arrangement for people in their twenties, and peaked at age 23 (15.3%) before trailing off as they reached their thirties.
  • A high proportion of younger adults did not fall under any of the traditional living arrangement categories used in this study or were not given a relationship in the household they usually resided in because they were visiting another dwelling on Census night (between 8.8% and 21.2%).

Females and males followed similar pattens in the distribution of their living arrangements but females transitioned from one living arrangement to another two years earlier as seen in graphs 3a and 3b. The other main differences were:
  • Males tended to remain living with their parents (children at home) longer than females.
  • Females became part of a couple living arrangement slightly earlier than males, both with and without children.
  • Males remained in group households longer than females and were more likely to be living alone during their thirties.
  • There was a greater occurrence of males in the 'other' category (16.1% of males compared to 12.2% of females overall), mostly due to the higher numbers of males who lived in prison or corrective institutions, staff quarters, other not classifiable households and as unrelated individuals in family households.
  • Females at age 30 were equally likely to have been living as lone parents (7.7%), children at home (7.5%) or lone persons (7.9%). From this point the proportion of lone parent females increased and females living with their parents decreased. At age 32, female lone person households started to decrease.

SELECTED LIVING ARRANGEMENTS BY AGE, MALES, VICTORIA - 2006, Younger Adults 20-39 Years
SELECTED LIVING ARRANGEMENTS BY AGE, FEMALES, VICTORIA - 2006, Younger Adults 20-39 Years

Persons with a non-school qualification

The main differences in living arrangements of the population with a qualification compared to those without a qualification were:
  • Younger adults with a qualification were more likely to be living in couples without children.
  • Those with a qualification also appeared to have children slightly later (reaching approximately 20% of the population at age 28, compared to age 25 for those without a qualification).
  • Victorians without a qualification became lone parents earlier (9.4% at age 36 compared to 4.7%).


Persons born in a non-main English speaking country

The main differences in living arrangements of the population born in a NMESC compared to those born in a MESC were:
  • Victorians aged in their twenties born in a NMESC were less likely to live in their parental home (children at home).
  • NMESC born persons were more likely to live in group households (over 10 percentage points difference at age 20-23).
  • NMESC born persons were more likely to live in married couples without children (over 7 percentage points from 27 to 29).
  • Couples with children became the dominant living arrangement at age 30 for both populations, however it grew faster for NMESC born couples (68.1% compared to 61.1% at age 39).

As in the children and teenagers cohort, some of these differences could be partly explained by Victoria's large number of international students. Cultural differences and migration circumstances were also likely influences. Victoria, and more specifically Melbourne, has had a high international student population which falls in this age range (DEEWR 2008). By investigating persons from NMESC, the experiences of a large proportion of the international student population can be examined. As international student numbers increased, there has been a range of policy involvement to support the needs of this growing group. Where and how international students live is greatly impacted by the provision of affordable housing options, whether at student halls of residence, rental properties or sharing with families, and its proximity to educational institutions, transport and other services.


Persons with a need for assistance

The main differences in living arrangements of the population who needed assistance with core activity compared to those who didn't need assistance with core activity were:
  • There was a greater incidence of younger adults in their early twenties with a need for assistance who lived in their parental home (approximately 60% to 75% classified as children at home compared to 30% to 50%) until their late thirties when they primarily started living as part of a couple with children.
  • The rate of living in a couple with children was much lower for the population with a need for assistance, around 25% - 30% in late thirties compared to 60% to 65%.
  • Comparatively, more younger adults with a need for assistance lived as part of a couple without children, as group household members or as lone persons in their mid to late thirties.
MIDDLE AGE (AGES 40 - 59)

Over recent years the issues associated with the structural ageing of the population have received increased attention by governments and researchers. Broad issues affecting the ageing population include ensuring adequate retirement incomes, labour force participation, healthy ageing and provision of community support, health services and aged care (ABS 2005). Persons in their forties and fifties have been identified as a key population group in terms of policy development to address these challenges. The older members of this group are nearing the traditional retirement age of 65 years and some have already withdrawn from the labour force.

This age grouping is also considered part of the 'baby boom' cohort (ABS 2004) (people born 1946-1966) which has special significance due to its size. It has been recognised that this generation has lived through enormous social change, such as rising rates of female participation in both tertiary education and the labour force (ABS 2006), and increasing rates of marital separation (ABS 2006).

In 2006 amongst middle aged Victorians, it was found (graph 1):
  • Couple relationships with children were the most common living arrangement between the ages 40 to 55, and peaked at age 43 (61.8%).
  • After the age of 43, living in couples with children became less common, and fell to 23.7% of people aged 59.
  • At 56, living in couple relationships without children became the most common living arrangement (36.2%) and continued to become more common beyond the age of 59. This was associated with an increasing number of children moving out of the parental home.

There were some interesting gender differences between the most common living arrangements for people aged 40 to 59 (graphs 4a and 4b):
  • While both sexes held a similar proportion of people living in couples with children from their early forties (around 60%), from the age of 48 there was a higher proportion of males at each age in this living arrangement.
  • The transition from a dominance of couples with children to couples without children occurred two years younger for women (age 55 compared to 57 for males).
  • Lone parenting was more common amongst females, becoming most pronounced in their forties and early fifties. At 42, 14.3% of females were lone parents compared to 2.5% of males.

Amongst all Victorians, living alone became increasingly more common from age 44, representing 8.3% of the age group, and increasing to 13.3% by age 59. For males and females:
  • Lone person households were more common amongst males in their early forties (10.2% at age 40 compared to 5.7% for females).
  • At the age of 55, females took over as holding a higher proportion of lone person households, and this continued into older ages.

SELECTED LIVING ARRANGEMENTS BY AGE, MALES, VICTORIA - 2006, Middle Age 40-59 Years

SELECTED LIVING ARRANGEMENTS BY AGE, FEMALES, VICTORIA - 2006, Middle Age 40-59 Years

Persons with a non-school qualification

The main differences in living arrangements of the population with a qualification compared to those without a qualification were between males and females:
  • Males in their forties with a non-school qualification were more likely to be found in couple with children households (e.g. 69.1% at the age of 43 compared with 57.5% of females).
  • Amongst females there was very little difference in the living arrangements of those with and without a qualification.


Persons born in a non-main English speaking country

The main differences in living arrangements of the population born in a NMESC compared to those born in a MESC were:
  • Amongst middle aged Victorians born in NMESC, higher proportions were living in couple relationships with children, particularly for males aged 54 to 59 (at age 54, 62.0% compared to 42.5%).
  • Proportionally less Victorians born in NMESC were in childless couples at these ages.


Persons with a need for assistance

The main differences in living arrangements of the population who had a need for assistance with core activity compared to those who didn't have a need for assistance were:
  • While people with a need for assistance in their forties through to mid fifties were most likely to be found living in couples with children (approximately 30%), it was in much lower proportions compared to people without a need for assistance (approximately 55%).
  • There were proportionally more people with a need for assistance living with their parents (particularly in their early forties), living in group households, or living in institutional care, in particular hostels for the disabled (forties to mid fifties) and nursing homes (early fifties onwards).
OLDER AGE (AGES 60 AND ABOVE)

In recent years policy regarding older Australians has put increased emphasis on early intervention, 'healthy ageing' and programs aimed at helping older people to remain in their own homes, instead of health and residential facilities, for as long as possible (McIntosh and Phillips 2003). There have been various options for aged care, such as the provision of care in home (AIHW 2006), aged care facilities, access to support networks (both family and community) and financial stability through pensions, superannuation and other income (DPS 2005). The living arrangements of the elderly are therefore of particular interest to these policy areas.

In 2006 amongst older Victorians it was found (graph 1):
  • Living in couples without children remained the dominant living arrangement until the age of 82.
  • The proportion of people living alone continued to increase until age 84, and was the most common living arrangement for people aged 83 and older.
  • Further analysis found that an increasing proportion of the very elderly (those 83 and older) resided in non-private dwellings, mainly nursing homes and aged care facilities.

The tendency for males to be older than their partners and longer life expectancy for females generally has ensured that most males are married into their older years, while females are more often widowed (United Nations 2005). The results showed some clear differences in the living arrangements of males and females in the older ages (graphs 5a and 5b):
  • From early sixties, the proportion of males living in couples without children grew by a greater amount than for females, continuing into the early seventies. The proportion of females living in couples without children declined from the age of 66.
  • Even in the older ages there was a much larger proportion of males in childless couple households (48.1% compared to 16.5% at 84 years of age).
  • At every age amongst older Victorians, the proportion of males in couples with children was greater than for females, however the gap did narrow as age increased.
  • A large difference in the proportion of females and males in lone person households particularly amongst the very old (at age 84, 44.3% of females compared to 21.9% of males).

SELECTED LIVING ARRANGEMENTS BY AGE, MALES, VICTORIA - 2006, Older Age 60+ Years

SELECTED LIVING ARRANGEMENTS BY AGE, FEMALES, VICTORIA - 2006, Older Age 60+ Years

Persons with a need for assistance

Approximately fifteen percent of this population had a need for assistance with core activities, the largest of any age cohort examined. The main differences and similarities in living arrangements of the population who had a need for assistance with core activity were:
  • There was a lower proportion of persons who had a need for assistance living in couples without children (for example, in their early sixties, approximately 45% compared to 55% of the population with no need for assistance).
  • This was the predominate living arrangement, however, for both populations.


Persons born in a non-main English speaking country

The main differences in living arrangements of the population who had a need for assistance with core activity compared to those who didn't have a need for assistance were:
  • Older Victorians born in NMESC held a higher proportion of people living in couple relationships with children than amongst those who were born in MESC.
  • For example, at 64 years of age 33.0% of NMESC born compared with 14.5% MESC born people were living in couple relationships with at least one of their children at home.
CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The value of using Census data to assist in understanding the diversity and distribution of living arrangements across the life course of the Victorian population has been demonstrated in this study. By observing the age at which the different living arrangements start to predominate in each age cohort, key ages of transition were identified. Also highlighted were real differences between the distribution of living arrangements across a number of sub-populations. This could be explored further to identify factors of potential risk and/or disadvantage that may impact individual and social wellbeing in these periods of transition.

Using Census data in this type of analysis is of real value to the development of policy responses as the results:
  • quantify and give evidence of the reality of the circumstances identified in the community and by other studies, and
  • provide net implications for Victoria.

Using Census data for this type of study also has the potential for results:
  • to be compared across Census years to measure changes in propensity over time, and
  • to be spatially located to show the relative impact of geography.

It is recommended that additional Census data be used to gain a more complete picture of the sub-populations of concern. Further analysis will allow researchers to identify impacts on specific communities and should provide relevance to different policy initiatives.
DEFINITIONS

Table 3: Definitions of variables used in this study
Variable/sDefinition
SexDetermines whether persons are male or female.
Non-Main English Speaking Countries (NMESC)Based on “Country of Birth of Person” (BPLP). Main English speaking countries (MESC) were as follows: Australia, Canada, Republic of Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa,United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and the United States of America. NMESC were all those outside the MESC list.
NMESC is often used as an indicator of the population from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. The NMESC classification is helpful only for a broad indication of diversity. Analysis of Census data by other ethnicity variables, including languages spoken, English proficiency and ancestry, may be useful for many policy and planning purposes.
Data quality statement: Country of Birth of Person.
Non-School Qualification: Field of Study
Non-School Qualification: Level of Education
These variables determine the field and level of a person's qualification but do not measure how many persons hold a qualification. All steps have been taken to ensure that combined they accurately reflect the population of people holding a qualification as best as possible.
Non-school qualification includes certificate, diploma, bachelor degree, graduate certificate, graduate diploma and postgraduate degree.
Finer grained analysis of qualification type would also be valuable in further studies.
Data quality statement: Non-School Qualification: Field of Study,
Non-School Qualification: Level of Education.
Core Activity Need for AssistanceThis population is a subset of the broader disability population, and is more readily and consistently identifiable than that broader population.
This indicator measures the characteristics of people with a profound or severe disability, that is, people needing help or assistance in one or more of the three core activity areas of self-care, body movement and communication, because of a disability (lasting six months or more), long term health condition (lasting six months or more) or old age.
Data quality statement: Core Activity Need for Assistance.

REFERENCES

ABS 2003, 'Changing families’ in Australian Social Trends 2003, cat. no. 4102.0.

ABS 2004, Australian Social Trends, cat. no. 4102.0.

ABS 2005, Mature Aged Persons Statistical Profile: Living Arrangements, cat. no. 4905.0.55.001.

ABS 2006, A Picture of a Nation, cat. no. 2070.0.

ABS 2009, 'Home and away: the living arrangements of young people' in Australian Social Trends 2009, cat. no. 4102.0.

AIFS 2009, 'Diverse families making a difference', Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

AIHW 2006, Aged Care Packages in the Community 2005-06: A Statistical Overview.

DEEWR 2008, Students: Selected Higher Education Statistics, Viewed 28 January 2009.

De Vaus, DA and Grey M 2004, 'The changing living arrangements of children, 1946-2001', Journal of Family Studies, 10(1): 9.

DPS 2005 'Superannuation, Social Security and Retirement Income', Research Brief 17 November 2005, no.7, 2005-06.

Laws P & Sullivan EA 2009. Australia’s mothers and babies 2007. Perinatal statistics series no. 23. cat. no. PER 48. Sydney: AIHW National Perinatal Statistics Unit.

McIntosh G and Phillips J, 2003, 'Caring for the Elderly' - an Overview of Aged Care Support and Services in Australia, E-Brief issued 27 February 2003.

Office for Women 2007, 'Women in Australia 2007', Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2005, Living Arrangements of Older Persons Around the World, Viewed 28 January 2010.

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