There are two major types of family ties that inform household formation. These are the nuclear and extended family systems. The nuclear family is made up of the father, mother and children (adopted and/or biological). The extended family consists of the nuclear family, made up of parents, siblings and other relatives (Nukunya, 2003). The relationship becomes more complex when marital ties of all these relations, both matrilineal and patrilineal, are taken into consideration. The basic objective of this chapter is to analyze household size, composition, structure and headships using data from the 2010 Population and Housing Census.

Household Size, Composition, and Structure

In the 2010 Population and Housing Census, a household is defined as “a person or a group of persons, who live together in the same house or compound, share the same house-keeping arrangements and recognize one person as the head of household” (Ghana Statistical Service, 2010: 26). A household, therefore, may consist of a man, his wife, children, distant relatives, or a housekeeper living with them. Visitors who spent the census night with the household were also enumerated as members of the household, as individuals were enumerated with respect to where they spent the census night, i.e., Midnight of 26th September, 2010.

Household Size

Household size refers to the total number of persons in a household irrespective of age, sex, or residential status. Household formation and distribution can form the basis for planning for economic and social services needed by the population. The demand for housing units, for instance, will have to be based on location and distribution of size of households. The distribution of households by urban-rural in each region also provides a useful information on how urbanized or „ruralized? a region is becoming, for planning purposes Table 3.1 shows that there are 4,793 households in the District comprising 730 (15.2%) households in the urban locality and 4,063 (84.8%) households in the rural localities. The average household size in the rural areas is 9.1 persons compared with 8.9 persons per household in urban areas in 2010.

Household composition

Household composition refers to the patterns of relationships between the head of household and other members of the household. Table 3.2 shows that the total population in households of the District is 42,972 comprising 49.6 percent males and 50.4 percent females. The population of household heads is 4,793 with 20.6 percent male heads and 1.8 percent female heads. The composition of children (sons and daughters) in households is 23,717, comprising 59.6 percent males and 50.9 percent females, an indication that there are more male children than female children in the households. There are 169 adopted/foster children in the District, comprising 0.4 percent males and 0.4 percent females.

Household structure

Table 3.3 illustrates that 31,568 (73.5%) of the total household population (42,972) of North Gonja District live in extended family households with males representing 72.4 percent and females accounting for 74.5 percent. The nuclear family households have a total population of 11,404 people, accounting for 27.6 percent made up of 27.6 percent males and 25.5 percent females. Nuclear households with heads, spouse and children constitute the largest with 88.3 percent. There is an equal proportion of males and females among single parents in nuclear family households (10% each). On the other hand, single parents in extended family households represent 8 percent males and 8.7 percent females.

Marital Status

Figure 3.1 presents the distribution of persons 12 years and older by marital status in North Gonja District. It can be observed from the Figure that, more than half (54.6%) of persons 12 years and older are married while 39 percent is never married. On the other hand, persons in informal/consensual union/living together and those separated are the least in the District (one percent each). The high percentage of married people compared to those separated and divorced can be attributed to the religious and cultural inclination of the District which does not encourage divorce and promiscuity.

Marital status, age and sex

Table 3.4 shows that, 8.5 percent of persons of age 12-14 years are married in North Gonja District. This shows that married is quite early in the District and falls far below the legal age at marriage in Ghana, which is 18 years. Again, within the age group 15-19, 14.4 percent are married, which further indicates how early marriage is in the District. As expected, a higher proportion of persons at age 50 years and above are widowed compared to persons of younger ages. Males record a higher proportion of never married persons (46.9%) compared to females (31.8%). As shown in the Table, 59.1 percent of the females compared to the males (49.9%) are married. Again, the proportion of females that is divorced or widowed is higher than that among the males particularly at older ages. This clearly shows that re-marriage rates among the male population are higher compared to their female counterparts.

Marital status and level of education

Table 3.5 shows that out of the total population 12 years and older in the District, 75.7 percent has no education, 19.2 percent has basic education, 4.1 percent has secondary education and 0.1 percent has tertiary education. A little more than half (53.1%) of the never married has no education while 0.1 percent has attained tertiary education. This, however, compares with as high as 90 percent or higher of the married, separated, divorced or widowed with no education. This pattern is similar between the males and females where the male population by each of the marital status categories tends to have a higher level of education relative to their female counterparts.

Table 3.4 further shows a higher proportion of females (79.2%) than males (72.0%) to have no education. Again, 21.2 percent and 17.4 percent of males and females respectively have basic education. Furthermore, 5.3 percent males and 2.9 percent females have secondary education while 0.2 percent of the males and 0.1 percent of females have tertiary education. This analysis suggests that there is a high school dropout in the District and may be attributed to early marriages, which constitute a major challenge towards retention of girls in schools as they progress on the educational ladder.

Marital status and economic activity

Table 3.6 provides information on persons 12 years and older by sex, marital status and economic activity status. The Table shows that overall, 73.1 percent of the population in the North Gonja District is employed, less than one percent is unemployed and 26.1 percent are declared economically not active. The Table further shows that in terms of marital status, the proportion reported to be employed is close to 70 percent or higher in each of the categories except among the widowed where the proportion that is employed is as low as 42.6 percent and more than half (56.3%) of them recorded to be economically not active.

It is to be noted also that the never married population is next to the widowed as recording a low proportion of 61.5 percent as employed and this could be due to the fact that a good number of the never married may be younger and may most likely be in school. It is, thus understandable that more than a third of them are reported to be economically not active. In contrast, a higher proportion (83.3%) of the married population 12 years and older is employed, 0.9 percent is unemployed and 15.8 percent economically not active. The analysis by sex also shows that a higher proportion of the male (78.8%) than the female (67.7%) population in the district is employed.

Accordingly, a higher proportion of the females (31.3%) than the males (20.6%) are reported to be economically not active. This observation is also the case comparing the males and females at each of the marital status 32 groups where the males generally show a higher tendency to be employed compared to their female counterparts in the district (Table 3.5). For example, the proportion of married males who are employed is 91.5 percent compared to 76.7 percent of their female counterparts in the district.

Table 3.7 shows that Ghanaians by birth account for 89.8 percent of the population of the District in 2010. The proportion of the population with dual nationality is 4.0 percent and 4.6 percent of the population is made up of ECOWAS citizens. We also have less than one percent reported as other African nationals while Ghanaians by naturalization constitute 0.8 percent of the total population of the District. There is also not variation between the males and females.

Religious Affiliation 

Religion refers to the individuals religious affiliation as reported by the respondent, irrespective of the religion of the household head or the heads spouse or the name of the person. However, no attempt is made to find out if respondents actually practice the faith they professed. Table 3.8 shows the distribution of the population of North Gonja District by religious affiliation. Islam (72.8%) is the dominant religion in the District, followed by Christianity (22.8%), Traditionalist (3.3%) and no religion (1.0%).

Among the Christians, Catholics (9.5%) are the most dominant. There are only slight variations between the males and females by religious affiliation and this suggests that members of one household are more likely to be affiliated to the same religion.



The 2010 Population and Housing Census captured comprehensively data on housing conditions in the country. The census provided an official count of all structures in Ghana for which North Gonja District is included. Among the issues covered were the number of occupied and unoccupied dwelling units, the type of dwelling and the main materials used in its construction, occupancy status, and methods of waste disposal, utilities and household facilities.

Information obtained from the census on housing quality indicated by the materials used for constructing various housing units, and the availability of facilities such as water and sanitation will serve as important indicators of the quality of life of household members. Such information can aid the government in designing housing improvement programmes.

The information from housing censuses also serves as a basis for planning housing and human settlement programmes in addition to adopting policies and undertaking evaluation and monitoring of housing conditions and needs of the population within the context of the Millennium Development Goal Seven (MDG7- ensure environmental sustainability). It can also be used to determine the adequacy of housing stock and assessment of the need for additional housing.

Housing Stock

The District has a total population of 43,547 out of which 42,972 were enumerated from 4,793 households (Table 8.1). The number of houses is 3,398 with an average household size of 9.1. In addition, urban areas in the District are credited with a total household population of 6,308 from 730 households with an average household size of 8.9. On the other hand, the rural areas have a total household population of 36,664 from 4,063 households and an average household size of 9.1.

Type of Dwelling

Holding and Tenancy Arrangement Table 8.2 shows that there are 13,895 dwelling units in the District. The proportion of households which live in units owned by a household member is 93.8. Another 2.3 percent is owned by relatives who are not household members and 1.5 percent is publicly owned. The proportion of households headed by females in dwellings owned by a household member 54 (88.0%) is lower than their male-headed counterparts in similar dwellings (94.7%). At the locality level, 97.2 percent of households in rural areas reside in dwellings owned by a household member compared to 87.9 percent in the urban areas. The table further reveals some variations between the male- and female-headed households and again between urban and rural areas by ownership status of household dwelling units in the District.

For example, ownership by a relative who is not a member of household and one by other private individual is higher in female-headed households (5.0% and 4.0% respectively) than maleheaded households (1.9% and 1.4% respectively). Similarly, ownership of dwelling units by government or public is higher in the urban (3.4%) than rural (0.4%) areas in the district.

Type of occupied dwelling

Table 8.3 presents information on the type of occupied dwellings by sex of household head and type of locality in the District. Compound houses (rooms) account for 59.1 percent of all dwelling units in the North Gonja District. On the other hand, separate houses and huts/buildings (same compound) represent 9.6 percent and 27.9 percent respectively of dwelling units in the District. It is also noted that compound houses account for 59.3 percent of dwelling units with households headed by males.

This compares with 56.7 percent among households headed by females. Another important observation is that a higher proportion of female-headed households (15.9%) reside in separate houses compared to the male-headed households (9.0%). In contrast, however, the proportion of households headed by males (28.1%) in huts/buildings in the same compound is relatively higher than those headed by females (24.9%). In the urban areas, 91.2 percent of households are in compound houses compared to 53.3 percent in the rural areas. However, 32.2 percent of households in the rural areas are resident in huts/buildings (same compound) as compared to just 3.7 percent in the urban areas in the District. Similarly, a higher proportion of rural (10.6%) households were resident in separate houses in the District compared to households in the urban areas which were represented by only 3.8 percent in separate houses.

Construction Materials

Main construction material for outer wall Table 8.4 presents information on the main construction materials for the outer walls of dwellings by locality in the District. Households living in dwelling units whose outer walls are constructed with mud brick/earth represent 83.0 percent and 9.8 percent of them are constructed with cement block/concrete. At the same time, wood is used in constructing 2.4 percent of household dwellings in the District. The same proportion is represented by bamboo palm leaf/thatch.

The comparison by type of locality, however, shows that as high as 91.2 percent of the outer walls of household dwellings in the District are constructed with mud brick/earth compared to 40.7 percent in the urban areas. In contrast, 51.7 percent of urban household dwellings have cement blocks/concrete for their outer walls compared to only 1.8 percent of household dwellings in the rural areas. This variation between the urban and rural areas may be due to differences in poverty levels between the rural and urban localities in the District.

Main construction materials for the floor of dwelling unit 

Table 8.5 indicates that a higher proportion of floors of dwellings are constructed with cement/concrete (85.2%), followed by earth/mud (13.6%). More than 80 percent of floors of dwellings in both rural (83.5%) and urban (94.7%) areas are constructed with cement/concrete. Though cement/concrete is widely used in both rural and urban areas, its use is much more extensive in the urban areas. The table further shows that earth/mud as a construction material for floors of dwellings is predominantly a rural phenomenon because the proportion of dwelling floors with earth/mud in the rural areas is 15.3 percent compared to 4.5 percent in the urban areas in the District.

Main construction materials for roofing 

Table 8.6 indicates that the main materials for roofing of dwelling units in the District is thatch/palm leaf or raffia (70.1%), followed by metal sheet (25.4%) with mud/mud bricks/earth representing only one percent. The use of roofing materials varies between the urban and rural areas to the extent that while metal sheet is the most common material used in the urban areas (83.5%), thatch/palm leaf or raffia is used for 81 percent of rural household 57 dwellings. This shows how low the quality of roofing materials is in the rural areas in the District is, a situation that may be largely due to poverty that may be widespread in the rural areas.

Room Occupancy 

A room is defined as a space in the housing unit, or other living quarters, enclosed by walls, reaching from the floor to the ceiling or roof, covering at least a height of two metres, of a size large enough to hold a bed for an adult, that is, at least four square metres. Information on the number of sleeping rooms occupied by the household provides an indication of the level of crowding and the adequacy of the housing stock. The higher the socio-economic status of the household, the larger the number of rooms it occupies. Hence, the number of rooms occupied is also a measure of the socio-economic status of the household. Table 8.7 shows the distribution of the number of rooms occupied by households in the District. 

Information in the table shows that a higher proportion of the households sleep in four rooms (19.4%) while those who sleep in three rooms constituting 18.5 percent. About 76.0 percent of one-person households sleep in a single room, while 11.1 percent sleep in two rooms. Furthermore, half of all households with four members have two sleeping rooms. Again, the table shows that 34.5 percent and 29.7 percent of households with six and seven members respectively are reported to use three sleeping rooms. 

The information presented further shows that the number of rooms available for sleeping purposes is not consistent with the size of households in the District. This means that overcrowding is common in households in the District with its likely negative implications on the health of the population.


Date Created : 11/21/2017 7:53:50 AM