There are 144,382 households in Upper East occupying 88,401 houses. With a population of 920,089, this results in an average household size of 6.4 persons and an average of 1.6 households per house. The average household size for the region is slightly lower than that of the adjacent regions, Northern (7.4) and Upper West (7.2).
What is common to these three northern regions however is that they have an average household size larger than the national average of 5.1 persons per household.
Builsa has the smallest average household size of 4.9 persons while Bawku East has the largest of 8.2 persons, followed by Bawku West with 6.9 persons. The remaining three districts have an average size of 5.7, much smaller than the regional average of 6.3 persons.
Size Of Households
For the purpose of analysis, the households are classified into five categories: single (1 person), small (2 persons), medium (3-5 persons) large (6-8 persons) and very large (9 persons or more).
Bawku East has the highest proportion of very large households (40.7%), followed by Bawku West (28.6%); Builsa has the lowest proportion (7.8%) of very large households. In all districts, except Bawku East, the largest proportions of households (31-47%) are of medium size. In each district, about 30 per cent of the households are large (6-8 persons).
Small households of two persons range from 4.1 per cent in Bawku East to 9.9 per cent in Builsa. Single person households form about 6 per cent in Builsa, Kassena-Nankana and Bolgatanga, and less than 5 per cent in the Bawku East (3%), Bawku West (4.2%) and Bongo (4.8%).
Heads of households constitute 14.8 per cent of the membership of households in the region. Temporary heads make up an additional 0.9 per cent of household members. At the district level, the proportion of the population who are heads of households ranges from 11.4 per cent in Bawku East to 19.2 per cent in Builsa, while the proportion of temporary heads ranges from 0.8 per cent in Bawku West and Bawku East to 1.4 per cent in Builsa.
Spouses constitute 12.2 per cent of household members, slightly less than the proportion of heads of household. This is an indication of a considerable proportion of single person or single parent households.
Children of the heads of households constitute the highest proportion of household members in each district. In the region as a whole, children of head of household constitute 42 per cent of household members. The highest proportion of 44.5 per cent is in Bawku West, while the lowest (33.5%) is in Bongo.
Other relatives are the second largest group of household members other than heads of households in the region and in each district; another significant group is grandchildren. The fact that children, grandchildren and other relatives of the head constitute more than 60 per cent of household members supports the view that the traditional external family household composition has not changed much. It also reflects the extent of fostering in the living arrangements of households (Ghana Statistical service, 2002).
The proportion of household members who are heads of households is 14.8 per cent in the region compared to 18.3 per cent for the country. The proportion of household members who are heads of households ranges from 11.4 per cent in Bawku East to 19.2 per cent in Builsa. Temporary headship is not very widespread in the region. It ranges between 4.8 per cent in Kassena-Nankana and 7.2 per cent in Bongo.
While substantive heads of households are predominantly male, the reverse is the case with temporary heads. In the country as a whole, 79.3 per cent of temporary heads are females while 68.7 per cent of usual heads are males. This picture is reflected at the regional and district levels, though at lower levels.
For the region as a whole, 77.8 per cent of usual household heads are males and this proportion ranges from 88.7 per cent in Bawku East to 64.3 per cent in Bongo. On the other hand, the proportion of female temporary heads is highest in Builsa (94.2%) and lowest in Bongo (59.4%).
Females head only about one-fifth (22.2%) of households in the region compared to the rate of about one-third (31.3%) for the country. But in a region where, traditionally, males are almost always the heads of household, this could be a welcome change. It is worth noting that Bongo has both the highest proportion of female household heads (35.7%) and lowest female temporary household heads (59.4%), far exceeding both regional and national levels.
Where a female is identified as head of household, it is likely that she may be a single person, a single parent or a widow. This is evidenced in the fact that only 35 per cent of spouses of heads of households are male (it ranges from 1.9% in Builsa to 11.1% in Bongo).
Household heads in the region and in all the districts are mostly in the late adult ages. The median age of household heads is below 50 years with the proportion of headship increasing with age up to 50 years. There is a significant drop in the 50-59 age group and continues to decrease with age.
The picture is the same for all districts and for both sexes. This declining proportion of household headship after age 50 years would tend to contradict the popular notion that the culture being patriarchal, several generations in a compound look up to the patriarch as head of the residents. It could also reflect a better understanding of the concept of household and therefore a better identification of households within the residential structures.
Only 3.8 per cent of those aged 12-14 were reported as ever married. Ninety two per cent of the males and the same proportion of the females aged 12-14 are never married. This is virtually the same as for the region where 92.3 per cent of persons aged 12-14 years are never married. The proportion of males (93.3%) and that of females (92.2%) never married is about the same. It is only in Bongo where the corresponding figure is 79.6 per cent of those aged 12-14 years.
The traditional practice of early and almost universal marriage, especially for women is reflected in the fact that in the region and in each district, about three out of every four persons aged 15 years or older have been married before.
More females than males have been married before (82.8 % females compared to 66.6 % males). The lower proportion of males who have ever married also reflects the fact that men are more likely than women to postpone marriage since traditional practices expect the man to initiate the marriage by paying the bride price and the responsibility for family maintenance.
Both of these require careful and thorough preparation. The region’s total ever married is higher than what is observed for the country as a whole where only two out of every three (68.1%) have ever married. The proportions of males (61%) and females (74.9%) ever married are also lower in the country compared to the region.
Bawku West has the highest proportion of ever-married persons (81.5%) followed by Bongo (79.5%), with the lowest (71.9%) in Bolgatanga. In each district, the proportion of evermarried females is higher than that for males.
The eligible population (aged 15 years or older) who are never married ranges from 18.5 per cent in Bawku West to 28.1 per cent in Bolgatanga, the regional capital. The proportion of eligible males who are never married ranges from 25.5 per cent in Bongo to as highas 36.0 per cent in Bolgatanga. The proportion of eligible females who are never married ranges from 21 per cent in Bolgatanga to 13.7 per cent in Builsa.
A high proportion of the population in the districts aged 15 years or older had married. About 62 per cent of the population in the region are currently married, consisting of 58.5 per cent male and 64.5 per cent females. The proportion currently married is higher in the region than in the country as a whole where only 49.9 per cent are currently married. The proportion males (58.5%) and females (64.5%) currently married are also higher than the national average of 48.1 per cent males and 51.6 per cent females.
In the districts, the highest proportion of currently married is 67.5 per cent in Bawku West and the lowest is 57 per cent Bongo. Among the male population, the proportion ranges from 55.7 per cent in Kassena-Nankana to 64 per cent in Bawku West, while for the female population, the proportion currently married ranges from 57.2 per cent in Bongo to 70 per cent in Bawku West.
Consensual union or “living together” is not a common practice in the region. Less than two per cent are reported as being in such a union. This is far lower than the national figure of 6.7 percent.
No Longer Married
In the region as a whole, separation, just like “living together” is not a common practice. Less than two per cent of the population aged 15 years or older are reported as separated (1.6 %). Slightly more females (1.7%) than males (1.4%) are reported as separated. The observed proportion of the population separated in the region is about the same as the total country figure of 1.8 percent.
In the districts, spouses who are separated range from one per cent in Bawku East to 3.4 per cent in Bongo. The proportion of females reported as separated is slightly higher than that of males in each district, except Bongo.
Only 2.2 per cent of the population aged 15 years or older is reported to be divorced in the region, ranging from 1.6 per cent in Bolgatanga and Bawku East to 4.8 per cent in Bongo.
In the light of the fact that the region has the highest proportion of ever-married population in the country, the rather low levels of separation and divorce in the region are an indication of stable relationships.
Less than a tenth of the population of the region (8.5%) are widowed, consisting of 3 per cent males and 13 per cent females. These proportions are about twice those of the country: 5 per cent (2.1% males and 7.8% females). At the district level, the widowed proportion ranges from 6.8 per cent in Bawku East to 10.9 per cent in Bongo.
The substantial imbalance between the proportion of males and females widowed may be explained by the higher survival rates of women in the country, and by the practice of polygamy. In a polygamous family, one man’s death results in more than one woman becoming a widow, whereas one wife’s death in the same polygamous family does not result in a man reporting himself as widowed.
Another likely explanation of the substantial imbalance is that men are more likely than women to remarry after the death of a spouse. Since older men tend to marry younger women, and women survive longer than men on average, husbands are more likely to die earlier leaving more widowed women.
There is the need for programmes that will be directed to all aspects of reinforcing the support system to take care of the need of widows. In this regard, NGOs working in the interest of widows in the three northern regions should be supported.