There are 80,599 households in the region, which is about 2.2 per cent of the total households in the country. With a population of 576,583, this gives an average household size of 7.2 persons.
The total number of houses in the region is 51,898; which gives the average number of 1.6 households per house. Household sizes in the region are high, and the lowest, 6.7 in both Lawra and Nadawli, is higher than the national average (5.1).
For the purposes of this report, households are classified into single (1 person), small (2 persons), medium (3-5 persons), large (6-8 persons) and very large (9 persons or more).
The most common household in each of the region’s five districts is either the large household, or the very large. The large and the very large household sizes together account for 70.4 per cent of households in Sissala and between 58.3 and 63.2 per cent in the other districts.
The medium household size accounts for about a fifth of households in each district but does not exceed 30.0 per cent in any district. Neither the single-person nor the two person households is common in the region. The two categories together constitute only about a tenth (10.0%) of households in each district.
Heads of households constitute 12.5 per cent of the members of households in the region. Temporary heads make up an additional 1.5 per cent of household members. At the district level, the proportion of the population who are heads of households ranges from 11.1 per cent in Sissala to 13.4 per cent in Nadawli, while the proportion of temporary heads ranges from 0.8 per cent in Sissala to 1.8 per cent in Jirapa-Lambussie. Spouses constitute 11.4 per cent of household members, ranging from 9.9 per cent in Lawra to 12.3 per cent in Wa.
Children of household heads make up the highest proportion of household membership in all districts. Children of household heads in the region constitute 39.5 per cent of household members, with variations from 41.3 per cent in Nadawli to 36.8 per cent in Sissala.
Other relatives form the second largest group of household members in the region (23.2%) and in all districts, with the highest proportion (29.5%) in Sissala and the lowest (19.7%) in Nadawli.
The traditional external family household composition has not changed much. This is supported by the fact that children, grand children and other relatives of the head constitute a significant proportion of household members (68.4%).
The head of household is generally the person identified by members of the household as the one responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the household, including the exercise of authority over household resources. The proportion of the household members who are heads of households (including temporary heads) is 14.0 per cent in the region compared to 18.3 per cent for the country. Lawra has the highest proportion of household heads (15.0%), while Sissala has the lowest proportion of both substantive heads (11.0%) and temporary heads (0.8%).
While heads of households are predominantly males, temporary heads are mainly females. For the country, 79.3 per cent of temporary heads are females while 68.7 per cent of usual/substantive heads are males. In the region also, the proportion of female temporary heads is 82.1 per cent while the proportion of male heads is 81.7 per cent. In Wa, 79.9 per cent of the temporary heads are females. The proportion of female temporary heads is 71.5 per cent in Sissala the lowest, while in other districts, females comprise between 80.3 per cent and 86.9 per cent of temporary heads.
Sex Of Head Of Households
In the region, majority of households, 81.6 per cent, compared with 86.2 per cent in 1984, are headed by males. 18.4 per cent of households in the region are headed by females compared to 31.3 per cent in the country. The percentage of female-headed households for the country as a whole, has changed very little, from 31.9 per cent in 1984 to 31.3 per cent in 2000.
In the Upper West Region however, the proportion of female headed households increased from 13.8 per cent in 1984 to 18.4 per cent in 2000. This is a welcome development in a region where, traditionally, males are almost always the heads of household.
The proportional distribution of heads of households by age and sex. The data show that although female household heads are few, their age distribution are fairly similar to that of the male household heads. In the region as a whole, about the same proportion of male and female heads are aged 50 years and older (44.4% male heads and 45.9% female heads).
The phenomenon of female household heads may be explained partly by the emerging modern trend of women delaying marriage or staying as single parents. The trend may also be due to breaks in marriage as a result of higher male mortality. The society is polygamous and women marry men far older than themselves. Many women are therefore likely to be widowed.
The practice of widow inheritance is gradually declining and widowed women may decide not to remarry or are unable to find suitable husbands. They may therefore decide to maintain themselves and their children as autonomous households.
In the region and in all the districts, household heads are mostly in the late adult ages. The median age of household heads is below 50 years. The proportion increases with up to age 50 years, after which it decreases with age. This pattern is the same for all sexes and in all districts.
This declining proportion of household headship after age 50 years tends to call into question the perception that the household composition in northern Ghana is characterized by a patriarch as head with married children and their families as members of his household. The observed pattern, on the other hand, may be the result of a better understanding of the household concept leading to a better identification of households.
The population aged 15 years or older who have never married ranges from 25.2 per cent in Nadawli to 28.7 per cent in Lawra. The proportion of never married males is within a narrow range of 34.1 per cent in Wa to 36.9 per cent in Lawra while that of females, which is much lower, falls within a wider range of 16.4 per cent in Sissala to 22.2 per cent in Lawra.
Ever Married (current and before)
There is evidence of early and almost universal marriage in the region, especially for women. This is shown in the fact that, in the region and in each district, 73.8 per cent of persons aged 15 years or older have ever been married. The proportion ever married is below the regional average in only Lawra (71.3%), while in all other districts, the proportion is between 74.1 and 74.8 per cent.
More females (81.4%) than males (64.7%) have ever married. The lower proportion of males who have ever married also reflects the fact that men are more likely than women to delay marriage, since traditional practices expect the man to initiate the marriage by paying the bride price and take responsibility for family maintenance, both of which require careful preparation.
The region’s total ever married (73.8%), is higher than that of the country as a whole (68.1%). The proportion of males (61.0%) and females (74.9%) ever married, at the national level, are also lower than that of males (64.7%) and females (81.4%) in the region. In each district, the proportion of ever-married females is higher than that for males.
Nearly two-thirds (63.0%) of the region’s population, aged 15 years or older, are married, made up of 58.3 per cent males and 67.0 per cent females. The proportion of males (58.3%) and females (67.0%), married in the region, is higher than in the country, 48.1 per cent males and 51.6 per cent females.
In the districts, the population married is higher than 60.0 per cent in four districts and 56.5 per cent in Lawra. Among the males, the proportion married ranges from 54.7 per cent in Lawra to 60.5 per cent in Sissala, while that for females ranges from 58.0 per cent in Lawra to 74.2 per cent in Sissala. Consensual union is not a common practice in the region, being only 1.4 per cent which is much lower than the national average of 6.7 per cent.
No Longer Married
In the region, separation, like consensual unions, is not a common practice; only 1.5 per cent of the population aged 15 years or older are reported as separated. This proportion of the population, who are separated in the region is slightly below the total country figure of 1.8 per cent. Slightly more females (1.6%) than males (1.3%), are reported as separated.
Only 1.6 per cent of the population aged 15 years or older is reported to be divorced in the region, ranging from 0.8 per cent in Jirapa-Lambussie to 2.2 per cent in Wa. The national figure of 4.8 per cent is thrice that of the region. Less than a tenth of the population of the region (6.3%) is widowed, made up of 2.2 per cent males and 9.7 per cent females. These proportions are higher than the national average of 5.0 per cent (2.1% males and 7.8% females).
The proportion of the widowed varies from 4.1 per cent in Sissala to 8.6 per cent in Lawra. The proportion of widowed females is about three times higher than that of males at the regional and district levels. The sex differential in the proportion widowed may be explained by both the higher survival rates of women in the region and the practice of polygamy. In the polygamous marriage, the death of the man results in more than one woman being widowed, whereas the death of a woman in the same polygamous union does not affect the marital status of the man. Another likely explanation of the differential is that men are more likely than women to remarry after the death of a spouse.
The high proportion of widowed women has implications for women and their children. The women bear the family burden, childcare, and child welfare against the background of general economic dependency of women and poverty of heads of households in the extended family.
Most women are almost entirely dependent on their husbands and generally do not inherit any part of their husband’s property. The death of the breadwinner therefore creates an economic vacuum in the lives of the widow and her young dependent children.
Marital Status Of The Population 12-14 Years
For the country, only 3.8 per cent of those aged 12-14 years are reported as ever married. Ninety two per cent of the males and the same proportion of females, aged 12-14 years, have never married. This is similar to the national situation where 92.9 per cent of population aged 12-14 years, have never married.
The proportion of males (93.4%) and females (92.3%) is almost the same. In each district, at least ninety two per cent of those aged 12 years have never married. It is only in Wa that the proportion of the population aged 12-14 years who have ever married (currently or earlier) exceeds 9.0 per cent.