Siblings, families and households

April 10th, 2016 Sections: Contemporary Kyrgyzstan, Maths-Stats
Even Peanuts gets in on the act!

In Peanuts even Sally and Charlie Brown get in on the act!

In some parts of the United States, today is Siblings Day and Tuesday will Only Child Day.

Siblings Day was the brainchild of  Claudia Evart, a paralegal from Manhattan, to honor the memory of her brother and sister, both of whom had died at early ages and is intended to be a celebration of the relationship of brothers and sisters.

Unlike Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, it is not officially recognized, although, since 1998, the governors of 49 states have officially issued proclamations to recognize Siblings Day in their state since 1998.  From its American beginnings the observation of the day has become international, spreading, for example, to India and Australia.  

I’d like to be able to tell you more about Only Child Day … but I can’t find any details anywhere apart from the fact that ‘only children’ actually have a second holiday – there is also a National Only-Children’s Day which is observed on the last Sunday in July.

As is so often the case, there are conflicting statistics about average family sizes.

When I was studying to be a teacher we were told that the average family had 2.4 children (… and we used to make jokes about which parts each family had –  It was a standard point of discussion when when covering topics in Statistics … Measures of Location … Averages).

There was a standard Psychology textbook that we had to read at college: The Normal Chiuld and some of his abormalities, by Valentine

As it happens, it’s not easy to work out the average size of a family … try Googling it and you’ll get a lot of conflicting statistics.  A lot depends on definitions, the source of the data and how they collected it.  National Statistics Bureaus, for example, may have a go at defining family sizes, but there are differences of opinion about what constitutes a family, and … NO, … I don’t want to enter the date about gay marriage or adoption.

Take, instead, the question of ‘single parent families’ which may be classified as such because of a conscious decision of the mother (and/or) to raise the child alone … the result of a death of one of the parents … divorce or abandonment.

Census enumerators find it easier to determine household size … but a household may include several generations of a ‘family’, (and others).

Taken that as read, however, as the Bob Dylan song puts it, “The times, they are a-changing” … and it seems, according to some reports, that  the average family size in the US and Britain has been falling … in particular, that there are fewer large families, (with three or more children), than there used to be … and some people see this as a side effect of the recession … and the ever increasing cost of raising a child … and the fact that more women have decided to follow career paths and thus having fewer children.

On the other hand, recently I have seen other suggestions that, in Europe, there are also signs of a recent resurgence in the size of families … with some commentators pointing the finger of accusation at … immigration … claiming that migrants tend to have larger families.

Interestingly, it is claimed that Britain has the largest number of large families across Europe, with twice the average across the whole of the continent.


Here in Kyrgyzstan, I looked, in particular, at three sets of figures, one based on census data from the National Statistics Committee from 2009, another from the World bank, published in 2011 and the third from the World Food Programme from 2012.

Looking at the figures for both family size and size of household, both showed an increase over the ten years between the 1999 and 2009 censuses … families rose from 4.7 to 5.0 people and households from 4.3 to 4.6.  There were variations, however, between those living in urban and rural areas, (with families and households in rural areas being larger than those in urban areas), and between different geographical regions, (with the larger families and households being found in the southern oblasts of Osh, Djalal Abad and Batken – and the smallest in the capital, Bishkek).

The relatively small difference between the figures for family and household sizes – especially when compared to similar figures in the West – was due, it was argued, to the fact that there were very few people who lived alone and the fact that households rarely included people who were not relatives.


The World Bank report in 2011 was concerned with poverty and an overview of living conditions among the population and it declared that the average household size in the country was 3.8 persons, (compared to 4.3 in the 2009 census), but, strikingly, among the ‘poor’ it was 5.1 compared with only 3.5 in the ‘better off’ households.  This difference was even more pronounced in rural areas than in urban ones.

Half of all poor households in Kyrgyzstan had two or three children each, whereas approximately almost half of the more prosperous households had no children at all.  Once again, there were marked differences between rural and urban areas.


The World Food Programme report of 2012 was concerned with the issues of Food Security and Nutrition, and so the data about family and household size was just one aspect and not the main interest of the survey.  It was based on a survey using sample data rather than census data – and hence shows some differences from the previous two reports … but, even so, it produced some interesting additional information.

Perhaps the most intriguing was that almost a third of households wear headed by women … markedly more so in urban than rural areas, (40% as opposed to 27%).  I suppose some of those may have reflected the fact that a considerable number of men have become ‘migrant workers’ in Kazakhstan and Russia, leaving their wives as nominal head of the household while they are away earning a living.  These households also tended to be smaller than those with a male head of household … 4.5 people compared to 5.2.

It also reported that these heads of household were younger in the city of Osh (45 years old) than in the rest of the country, (49), which has apparently been more or less stable in similar surveys conducted previously.



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