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% of American households last year — a marked increase over the 17% 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% to 49% 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% down to 7% between 2007 and 2012. Over that same period, singletons increased as a share of American households, Census Bureau data show.
Living alone in South Los Angeles has forced Fermin Vasquez to save money by eating out less and cooking at home more often. But having a place of his own is worth it, the 26-year-old said.
“I can clean the house whenever I want,” Vasquez said. “I can have friends over. My girlfriend comes over more often. If I go out at night, I don’t have to worry about waking up my roommate.”
His words are echoed by Connie Perez, 37, who started living alone in Pasadena about four years ago. “You have the freedom to do what you want to do,” said Perez, a partner at an accounting firm. Perez had never lived alone before, and it was scary at first, she said. “But the time alone — you can’t put a price on that.”