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Household crowding


The proportion of the population living in crowded housing (ie requiring one or more additional bedrooms, as defined by the Canadian Crowding Index).

The Canadian Crowding Index is a proxy measure to monitor the incidence of "crowding" in the population.


Housing space adequate to the needs and desires of a family is a core component of quality of life. National and international studies show an association between the prevalence of certain infectious diseases and crowding,69 between crowding and poor educational attainment, and between residential crowding and psychological distress.70

Current level and trends

In 2006, 389,600 people, or 10 per cent of the New Zealand resident population, lived in households requiring one or more additional bedrooms to adequately accommodate household members, based on the criteria in the Canadian Crowding Index (see Appendix 2). This was similar to the level of crowding in 2001. The proportion of people in crowded households has reduced since 1986, when 13 per cent of the population were living in crowded conditions (392,700 people).

The Canadian Crowding Index also shows how many people live in houses where two or more bedrooms are required. In 2006, there were 131,100 people or 3.5 per cent of the usually resident population in this situation, compared to 118,700 people (3.9 per cent) in 1986.

Figure EC5.1 Proportion of population living in households requiring at least one additional bedroom, by ethnic group, 1986 and 200671

Figure EC5.1 Proportion of population living in households requiring at least one additional bedroom, by ethnic group, 1986 and 2006

Source: Statistics New Zealand 

Age and sex differences

Living in a crowded household is more likely to be experienced by younger people than by older people. In 2006, 17 per cent of children under the age of 10 years lived in households requiring at least one more bedroom, compared to 15 per cent of 10–14 year olds. Among the population aged 15 years and over, 9 per cent lived in crowded households but this ranged from 17 per cent of 15–24 year olds, to 10 per cent of 25–44 year olds, 5 per cent of 45–64 year olds and just 3 per cent of those aged 65 years and over.

Between 1986 and 2006 there was little change in the proportion of children under the age of 15 years living in crowded households, defined either as needing one or more additional bedrooms (17 per cent in both years) or as needing at least two more bedrooms (just over 5 per cent in 1986 and just under 6 per cent in 2006).

There is very little difference by sex in the likelihood of living in crowded households. 

Ethnic differences

Pacific peoples are far more likely to be living in crowded households than other ethnic groups. In 2006, 43 per cent of Pacific peoples lived in households requiring extra bedrooms. Māori and those in the Other ethnic group were the next most likely, with 23 per cent of each group requiring at least one extra bedroom, followed by Asians (20 per cent). Partly reflecting their older age profile, only 4 per cent of European New Zealanders were living in houses that met the definition of crowding used here. The Other ethnic group was the only ethnic group to have an increased incidence of crowding between 1986 and 2006 (from 22 per cent to 23 per cent). One possible explanation for this trend is that recent migrants, common in this ethnic group, are more likely to live in crowded households.72

The largest group of those living in households requiring at least one extra bedroom were those who identified as European (32 per cent), followed by Māori (30 per cent), Pacific peoples (27 per cent), Asian (17 per cent) and the Other ethnic group (just 2 per cent).73 Of those living in more severe crowding situations (households requiring two or more bedrooms), Pacific peoples and Māori made up the largest groups (37 per cent and 32 per cent, respectively).

Cultural attitudes and economic conditions are two primary factors that account for the extreme variation in crowding levels between ethnic groups. The variance in population age structures is also a factor: the Māori and Pacific peoples ethnic groups both have younger age structures than the European population.

Socio-economic differences

Unemployed people are more likely to be living in crowded households than people with full-time jobs (20 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively). Seventeen per cent of people who receive income support were living in crowded households in 2006, up slightly from 16 per cent in 2001.74

There is a clear correlation between levels of income and levels of crowding: in 2006, 5 per cent of households in the bottom quartile of equivalised household income required one or more bedrooms, compared with less than 1 per cent of those in the top income quartile.

Households in rental accommodation were more likely to be crowded (10 per cent) than those in dwellings owned with a mortgage (4 per cent) or mortgage-free (2 per cent).

Regional differences

The proportion of people living in crowded households varies considerably across the country. Manukau City has by far the highest proportion, with 25 per cent of people living in households requiring one or more extra bedrooms in 2006. The next highest levels were in Opotiki District (19 per cent), Kawerau District (18 per cent), Porirua City and Auckland City (both 17 per cent). In all of the South Island local authorities, the proportions of people living in crowded households were well below the average, with the lowest being in Waimate (2 per cent).

» View technical details about the household crowding indicator