August 29, 2013 in Nation/World

Living alone on the increase for Americans

‘Greatest social change’ of 50 years
Emily Alpert Los Angeles Times
 
By the numbers

27 percent: Proportion of U.S. households consisting of people living alone in 2012

17 percent: Proportion of U.S. households consisting of people living alone in 1970

A growing share of Americans live alone, despite the economic woes lingering after the recession, a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows.

People living alone made up more than 27 percent of American households last year – a marked increase over the 17 percent who did so in 1970.

“The rise of living alone is the greatest social change of the last 50 years,” said Eric Klinenberg, author of “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.” The Census Bureau report underscores that despite the costs, “Americans will pay a premium to have a place of their own,” he said.

Researchers offered several reasons for the long-standing trend: Americans are waiting until later in life to marry, stretching their years of singlehood. As a result, married couples have become much less common, dropping from 71 percent to 49 percent of American households between 1970 and 2012, the new report shows.

Elderly people are also spending more years alone. “Adults have been able to live longer, and as they’re healthier, they can stay in their own homes instead of moving in with a family member” or heading to a nursing home, said Jonathan Vespa, one of the demographers who wrote the report.

The trends might seem puzzling in light of the recession and its enduring effects, including the recent surge in young adults living with their parents. Another report, from the Pew Research Center, shows the downturn did, indeed, seem to dampen the odds that people ages 18 to 31 would live alone. But the numbers fell only slightly – from 8 percent down to 7 percent between 2007 and 2012. Over that same period, singletons increased as a share of American households, Census Bureau data show.

Klinenberg believes technology has helped drive the change, allowing people to connect online while living alone. People living alone are actually more likely than married people to spend time with friends and neighbors or volunteer in their community, he added.

“Any time you feel like it, you can go out your door and get involved in social activities,” said Kim Calvert, editor-in-chief of Singular Magazine. The only benefit Calvert can see to sharing a home, she said, is sharing expenses. “Being single isn’t about being lonely.”


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