Clear definitions of survey-related terms are essential because they may vary from country to country. In particular, the terms “household” and “dwelling” must be well defined to ensure that survey teams operate consistently when identifying and selecting households in the field. The Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) and the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) are good resources to check for meanings that are culturally appropriate, especially in societies where the family structure and marital arrangements (for example, polygamy) may add complexity to definitions.

The manual uses the following definitions:1

  • A household consists of a person or a group of persons who live together in the same dwelling unit, who share common living arrangements, who eat together, who acknowledge the same person as the head of household, and who are considered as one unit.
  • The head of household is a resident member of the household who is acknowledged by the other members as the primary decision-maker.
  • A dwelling unit is a room, or a group of rooms, normally intended as a place of residence for one household. This could be a single house, an apartment, or a group of rooms in a house. However, a dwelling unit can also be shared by more than one household.
  • A structure is a free-standing building that can have one or more dwellings for residential or commercial use. A residential structure can have one or more dwelling units, for example, it may be a single house or an apartment building.
  1. Definitions from: MICS manual for mapping and household listing (25 February 2019). New York: United Nations Children’s Fund; 2019