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Alone But Not Lonely: The Trend of Solitary Living

More than ever, Americans are opting to live on their own. But how drastic is the change? Here’s a look at the trend of Americans living alone, with a lot of the insight provided by Eric Klinenberg, author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.
Living Alone by the Numbers

  • According to U.S. Census data, in 2010, 31 million households had a single person. [1]
    • This is 27% of American households.
    • In 1950, only 9% of households had single occupants.

The percentages of those living alone in specific areas can be even higher: [2]

  • Washington, D.C.: 48%
  • Manhattan: 46%
  • Atlanta: 45%
  • Minneapolis: 43%
  • Seattle: 42%
  • San Francisco: 40%
  • Denver: 40%
  • Cleveland: 40%

For the first time, less than half of American homes (48%) had husband-wife occupancy. [1]

It’s possible that about 5 million Americans ages 18 to 34 live alone. This is 10x more than in 1950.

While many young adults have moved back home because of the economy, the number of people ages 20 to 29 who live alone only dropped from [3]

  • 11.97% (2007)
  • to 10.94% (2011)

Middle-aged Americans (15 million people) make up the largest group of single people.
Between ages 35 and 64, that live alone.

For the elderly, more are able to live alone in part to Social Security and private pensions.

  • 100 years ago, almost 70% of elderly widows lived with a child.
  • Today, only 20% of elderly widows live with a child.

Insight Into Solitary Life

Why are many Americans so solitary these days?

  • Many are getting married much later in life. [4]
  • Average age for men getting married for the first time: 28
  • About 50% of marriages are expected to eventually end.

An influence of growing American trends:

  • Communications Technology
  • Increased Life Spans
  • Women’s Liberation
  • Urbanization

The idea of the “cult of the individual.” Many Americans want to:

  • Live their lives the way they please.
  • Build their own future.

What does this mean for the economy? [2]

  • It’s estimated that consumption by American singles provides $1.9 trillion every year to the economy.

In terms of discretionary spending in 2010 (per capita):

  • Highest-spending families with kids = $23,179
  • Married people without kids = $28,017
  • “Singletons” = $34,471


While it was considered more unusual to live alone in decades past, it’s becoming more of a popular choice among many Americans today.


[1] http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-05-02/living-alone/54585114/1
[2] http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2012/01/25/eric-klinenberg-going-solo/
[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/opinion/sunday/living-alone-means-being-social.html/?pagewanted=all
[4] http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2012/04/16/120416crbo_books_heller

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About :

Geneva McNamara joined Trader Publishing company in August, 2004 after she received her degree from Old Dominion University in History and Political Science. She has worked within the Search Engine Marketing & Search Engine Optimization departments of several Dominion Enterprise divisions. In 2011, She became the Senior Organic Search Analyst for ForRent.com.


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