What are people like in Barcelona and how do they live?

The results of the Barcelona Sociodemographic Survey (ESDB) for 2020 show a drop in the risk of relative poverty, which affects 21.7% of the city’s population, compared to a figure of 23.8% in 2017. Conducted by the Municipal Data Office in collaboration with the Area for Social Rights, the study helps quantify and characterise Barcelona’s population, households and housing.

16/04/2022 10:26 h

Ajuntament de Barcelona

The survey describes the sociodemographic characteristics of the people of Barcelona, along with the city’s homes. It also offers an accurate picture of material conditions for households and their members.

The second edition of the survey was conducted between 16 November 2020 and 24 February 2021. In all, the study was based on 10,787 buildings and complete responses to questionnaires from 4,671 homes, 4,552 households and 11,092 people.

The main results of the ESDB are:

The number of households is 751,378, with an average of 2.42 people per household and an overall resident population of 1,783,556 people (101,238 more than the last survey, an increase of 6%). The number of empty homes or those put to non-residential use dropped from 31,903 (2017) to 29,613 (2020), some 7.2% lower.

Some 5.1% of residents are not officially registered as living in Barcelona (90,171 people). This figure is as high as 14% among young people between the ages of 25 and 34. In all, 49.6% of residents have always lived in the city, while the percentage in the previous study was 55.6%. Some 51% of the population between the ages of 25 and 34 have been living in the city for under ten years.

In terms of the make-up of households, multi-households account for 3.5% of all city households (2.8% in the previous study), with 4.2% of those interviewed living in this type of arrangement. In Ciutat Vella this percentage rises to 8%, compared to just 1% in Sant Andreu. Households with a single member have dropped to 24%, with single-parent families also down from 4.9% to 4.3%, and women are the main breadwinners in 35.5% of households.

Characteristics of the population and work

The overall population of 1,783,556 people has 908,647 women and 874,909 men, 15.4% of these with foreign nationalities and 21.5% born abroad. In terms of studies, 44.9% have a university education, compared to a figure of 38.9% from the first study five years ago.

The number of people in employment has risen from 739,000 to 849,000, some 55% of the total, with 78.2% salaried workers. Unemployment stands at 13.5%, nearly one per cent higher than the previous study, with average jobseeking periods dropping 38.5%, from 26.2 months to 16.1 months.

Income levels, poverty and social exclusion

Some 21.7% of people in Barcelona are at risk of relative poverty (44% in Ciutat Vella and 11.3% in Sarrià – Sant Gervasi), an improvement on the figure of 23.8% in 2017.

The risk of relative poverty affects 22.1% of women and 21.3% of men, while minors up to the age of 15 are the group with the highest rate of poverty (27.6%). Nearly 4 out of 10 single-parent households are at risk of poverty, making this the type of household most at risk.

The relative figure for severe material privation is slightly better. This figure is based on a set of indicators such as the impossibility of going on holiday for one week a year or tackling an unexpected expense of 700 euros. The figures show this is the case in 6.9% of households, down from 7.5% in 2017.

Some 36.3% of households struggle to make ends meet, with nearly 7% finding it difficult to properly cover the needs of their children.


Renting is up from 38.2% to 40.1%, compared to 55.8% of the population who own their own homes. The average rent is 802,3 euros in the city, varying from 539 euros in Nou Barris to 1,107 in Sarrià – Sant Gervasi.

Some 92.4% of households have an internet connection (10% more than in 2017), 85.2% have a computer (5% more than in 2017) and 68% have central heating (6.5% more than in 2017). Over 40% of elderly or dependent people or those with reduced mobility live in homes without a lift.

State of health and personal autonomy

Just 3.8% of the population affirm they are in poor or very poor health, a figure which climbs to 16.6% among the over-75s.

Some 11.6% of the population state that their activity is limited in some way due to health reasons, with 6.3% affirming they need help.

Unwanted loneliness

This is the first time the study has addressed people’s perception of loneliness. Some 77% of the population never or hardly ever feel lonely, while just 3.9% feel lonely often or very often. The sense of loneliness is more acute among the elderly and people in low-income households.

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