The Fourth National Survey on Household Changes
Report (Synopsis)

October 2001
The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, Japan

  1. Introduction

Japan has experienced marked demographic changes during past several decades. Although the improvement in life expectancy continues due to the mortality decline in older ages, it is predicted that the total population starts declining because of the very low fertility rate prevailing since 1970's. Rapid population aging will continue and even be accelerated when the post-war baby-boom cohort reaches at age 65. Changing gender relationship has been prompting such nuptiality changes as the delay in marriage, the increase in the proportion never marrying, and the rise in the divorce rate.

These changes have exerting impacts on the static distribution of household size and composition as well as on the dynamic process of household formation and dissolution. Such household changes as increase in the propensity to live alone among the elderly, the growth in the number of one-parent family households, and the growing propensities of young adults to stay longer in their parental households are of great concern both for academic and political worlds.

The Fourth National Survey on Household Changes was conducted on July 1, 1999, succeeding the previous round conducted five years before. This series of household surveys are designed to study various household changes and to obtain important parameters for household projections. The survey covered a similar set of topics as in the previous survey, which included the size and the composition of the households, individuals' experiences of assuming and resigning headship, timing of young adults' leaving parental home, transitions between marital states, and so forth.

  • Samples and responses
  • This survey was conducted as a "rider" of the Comprehensive Survey of the Living Conditions of People on Health and Welfare conducted by the former Ministry of Health and Welfare (presently the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare). Out of 1,048 survey areas sampled for the Comprehensive Survey, 300 were assigned for this survey. Designated interviewers distributed and collected questionnaires, which were, in principle, requested to be filled out by household heads.

    Out of a total sample of 16,267 households, completed questionnaires were collected from 13,385 households, among which 12,434 were regarded valid for analysis. The collection rate was 82.3 percent while the valid response rate was 76.4 percent.

  • Results
  • Present Status of Households

    Availability and Co-residence with Kin



    Other relatives

    Continuity and emergence of households

    Experiences of household heads

    Arrivals and departures of household members

    Changes in the household size

    Changes in the family types

    Household formation and expansion

    Leaving parental home


    Life course patterns

    Household dissolution and reduction

    Divorce and widowhood

    Departures of children and empty nests

    Health of the elderly and co-residence with children

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