Who is the head of household?

And why?

Once the household is defined, it makes sense to select one member as a ‘head of household.’  Ideally, the person selected will be the primary decision-maker in the home, so, how does a data provider decide who is the most likely household member to be the primary decision-maker? (This is part two! To read the first part, click here ) Typically, a data provider will start by ruling out the extremes – for example, if there is a 80 year old and a 30 year in the household, it’s more likely the 30 year old will be responsible for daily affairs.  Likewise, if there is a 48 year old and a 19 year old, it’s highly unlikely the 19 year old will be making the decision on home insurance or annuity plans (at least, we hope not).

What if the household consists of a 32 year old male and a 34 year old female?  Who should be assigned the title ‘head of household’? While there are many good points in favor of either choice, traditionally, data providers have chosen the male member in the 30 to 60 year age range.  This is not a reflection of the competence or superiority of men, just the logical outcome of saying, well, someone needs to be chosen and the criteria need to be consistent!

Narrowing the focus to working-age males attends to the difficulty of determining the reference person by gender alone, maintaining data quality and uniformity. While it may not be a perfect system, consistency is the name of the game, and this logic can be applied to every household.

Martin Data © 2018