Data Insight: Are farm households different? Some evidence from Wales

This Data Insight presents data on the structure of farming households in Wales and compares them to other non-farming rural households. The work was carried out by the AD|ARC (Administrative Data | Agricultural Research Collection) team, an ADR UK- funded project. The project aims to integrate the human dimension with data on farming activities. This enables us to better understand the demographic, health, education, and economic characteristics of farm households associated with different types and sizes of farm businesses. AD|ARC aims to provide the insights needed for decision makers to improve future policies and enhance the wellbeing of farmers and their households.

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What we did

In broad terms, we linked information about individuals receiving farm subsidy payments with socio-economic information about their households, then compared their characteristics with those of a control group of non-farming rural households.

What we found

When looking at the individual level data, no great disparity was found in age (an average of 43.1 vs 43.3 years) or gender (53% female vs 49% male) between members of farming households and non-farming rural households. 

The data was then analysed at the household level using the ONS 2011 Census household type classifications. All the findings reported below are statistically significant unless stated otherwise. Comparing the type and structure of farming and non-farming rural households, the team found the following differences in household characteristics:

  • Farming households were larger and more likely to be composed of more than one family
  • Single occupant farming households were predominantly male 
  • A higher proportion of couples in farming households were married or in a civil partnership than in non-farming rural households.

Why it matters

Rural households are not homogenous. When comparing households with at least one member who was receiving a farming subsidy with households containing no farming members, the average age and gender split were similar but several significant differences emerged. Namely, compared with non-farming rural households, farm households were, on average:

  • just under 25% larger
  • less likely to contain a single occupant…
  • …but when they did contain a single occupant, were more likely to consist of a single male
  • more often multi-generational
  • more often living as a married couple or in a civil partnership than co-habiting.

The farming cohort we examined represent a group with high policy relevance, as they constitute the majority of recipients for annual subsidies worth more than £200 million in 2022.  These payments are a legacy of the former EU Common Agricultural Policy regime so going forward these households will be directly impacted by policy reforms introduced in Wales.

Following UK withdrawal from the EU, the Common Agricultural Policy no longer applies in the UK. As a devolved matter, Wales can adapt and reform the previous regime to best meet local needs and address existing and emerging policy issues. In this context, a more complete understanding of the structure of farm households is useful to policy makers, and stakeholders more generally, as policies are reviewed and reformed.

A better understanding of household structures and characteristics can help inform decision makers where farm households are disadvantaged in comparison with other groups in society and interventions are needed to address particular problems, where farm households are well placed to achieve policy objectives and might be supported in that role, and where policies affecting farm households are changing and measures are required to assist with social or economic transition. 

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