Is Living Alone the New Normal?
For past generations, “growing up” meant getting married, buying a home and starting a family.
That’s not necessarily the typical path anymore.
Nuclear families (those defined as a husband, wife and an average of 2.3 children) used to be the majority. These days, in many cities, living solo is common and may well be the new normal.
Read on to learn more about what it means to be in charge of your own apartment household of one!
In 1950, the majority of Americans who lived alone were male migrant workers, taking jobs in sparsely-populated rural areas like Alaska or the mid-West. For these workers, living alone represented a temporary situation — one that eventually made way for a typical married life.
Fast forward to 2011. The Census from that year showed that more than 30 million people live alone, compared to the 10 million living alone in 1950. Those 30 million people represent a whopping 28 percent of all United States households. These numbers show that traditional attitudes towards family life and its milestones are changing.
The family of one
According to Eric Klinenberg, a professor of sociology at New York University who has written a book on the solo living trend, the appeal of living alone will continue to grow in our tech-obsessed society. Klinenberg suggests that because our smartphones and computers connect us to one another on a 24/7 basis, many people crave alone time. Solitude provides the much-needed respite that many use to recharge their internal batteries.
Census data on marriages also suggests a reason for so many “family of one” households. According to a 2010 Pew Research study, Millennials (the name for the current generation of 18 to 29 year olds) just aren’t in a hurry to get married. Only 21 percent of them are married, in fact. By comparison, 42 percent of Baby Boomers were married by that age, and 29 percent of Gen Xers. It seems, for younger Americans, that living alone is the new definition of “grown up” — an important milestone to cross before moving on to the challenges of adult life, including – perhaps — marriage.
Solo in the city
The majority of people who choose to live by themselves find urban centers. In fact, New York City and Washington, D.C., are half-populated by single households. In cities, where resources are accessible and transportation is more communal, the stage is set for individuals to carry out their lives without the same need for at-home support that used to be almost a necessity. It’s arguable, also, that the rise of the Internet has connected people in a way that mediates the need to share a home. For some, the city becomes their home.
“Living alone” and “being alone” are definitely not the same thing. Klinenberg actually found that those who live alone are more likely to be actively social than their married counterparts. He notes that living alone tends to make people seek out more social interaction, shattering the stereotype of the “lonely single guy/girl” and reinforcing that living alone can actually be liberating.
Photo credit: Shutterstock / Kichigan