In NYC and China, developers are building smaller apartments.

Living Solo

Apr 18, 2012 • Behavioral Economics, Economic History, Gender Issues, Households, Labor, Macroeconomic Measurement, Uncategorized • 218 Views    No Comments

I’ve just started to count the people I know who live alone. School friends, relatives, neighbors. Some are in their twenties and early thirties, unmarried. Others are divorced. Several are widowed.

31 million of us live alone. Almost one-third of all households in the U.S. are composed of one person. Five million adults, younger than 35, live alone.

In 1950, living alone was the exception. Not any more. Why?

Maybe because of affluence, feminism, and technology. An increasingly affluent society has increased our life spans. With one spouse outliving the other, a woman (more typically) or a man is left to live alone. Women working outside the home have less dependence on a spouse. Women can marry later (age 26.5 average) and leave a marriage more easily. Fifty percent of all mariages will probably end in divorce.

And with pets becoming family members and the proliferation of social media, are we really alone when living solo?

The bottom line? Ups, downs, and long term economic trends have touched the very essence of how we live. When the economy dipped, more college grads moved in with their parents. More people postponed marriage. More postponed divorce.  On the other hand, with the upward trajectory of the economy between 1940 and 2000, we became more of a live alone society.

This New Yorker article started me thinking about living alone and is the source of my statistics. In “The Boomerang Generation,” you might look at research from Pew for insight about multigenerational living and here is the census data that confirms the increase in single person households. Finally, for more about the impact of economic growth on our lives, I always love to return to Pursuing Happiness by Stanley Lebergott.

An interesting single household fact: In 2000, Utah had the fewest single person households and Washington D.C the most.

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