Is Living Alone the New Normal?
The incidence of people living alone has been trending upward for decades because people are choosing to do so. Why do people live alone and why do they love it?
According to the Census Bureau, in the United States, more than one-fourth of all households were one-person households as of 2020. More than 36 million people in the United States live alone. The singletons, as they are sometimes called, have lots of company. People in cities are more likely to live alone compared to people in suburban and rural areas. In some cities, as many as half of all households are one-person households.
Singleton Statistics (2020 U.S. Census)
% of Total
38% of total adults
28% of total households
Prior to the 20th century, almost no one lived alone. but over the last century, there has been a major social phenomenon—a steady increase in the proportion of one-person households. The proportion of Americans who live alone has grown steadily since the 1920s, increasing from about 5 percent then to about 28 percent by 2020.
The % of One-Person Households by Decade
Why Are So Many People Living Alone?
Young people marry at older ages: Many people who live alone are young single people. As the median age of first marriage for women has risen from 22 in 1940 to 28.1 in 2020, and for men from 24 in 1940 to 30.5 in 2020, more young people are moving from their parents home before marriage and staying single longer. Some young unmarried people live with roommates, but many live alone.
There are more never-married people: We also have a rise in the never-married. As marriage has become less of an economic necessity and more acceptable as a lifestyle choice, the proportion of people who do not marry has also increased.
Older people are able to remain independent: At the other end of the age spectrum, there are more widows and widowers living alone. In earlier decades, they might have moved in with their children, but older people these days want their independence. With better health and better financial situations, they are able to choose to live alone.
What Are Some Reasons to Love Living Alone?
People are choosing to live alone. Almost every person who lives by themselves has other options available to them—living with family, living with friends, living with roommates, or getting married or remarried. Obviously, there must be a lot of benefits to living alone.
A List of Reasons to Love Living Alone (Or Not)
Here are some of the advantages (and corresponding disadvantages) of living alone. It's a trade-off. You give up one thing to get another thing.
1. I can eat what I want when I want.
On the downside, grabbing a cup of soup at my desk is not the healthiest way to live.
2. There Is no one expecting me to cook dinner.
On the downside, there is no one to cook dinner for me.
3. When I cook something delicious, I don't have to share It.
On the flipside, when I cook something delicious, there is no one to share it with. And no one to tell me what I good cook I am.
4. No one eats the last piece of pie before I get home.
On the downside, there is no one to surprise me with a freshly baked pie when I get home.
5. Everything stays where I put It.
On the downside, there is no one to help me look for something when I forget where I put it.
6. I can stay up as long as I want.
On the downside, when I stay up until 3 am watching TV, there is no one reminding me that if I don’t go to sleep, I’m going to be really tired all the next day.
7. No one wakes me up when I want to sleep late.
On the downside, there is no one to wake me up so I don’t sleep half the day away.
8. I can turn the volume up as loud as I want.
As long as I don't disturb the neighbors, there is no downside to this one.
9. I can watch what I want on TV.
The big screen TV in the living room is all mine. On the downside, there is no one to turn to and say, “Wow, did you see that?"
10. If I wake up at 3 am, I can turn on the TV or the light.
I can’t think of a downside.
11. I don't have to nag anyone about chores.
On the downside, I have to take the garbage out myself.
12. I don't have to clean up after anybody.
On the downside, I have no one to help with the cleaning up.
13. I don't have to clean up when all I want to do Is write.
On the downside, when I have let the dishes pile up in the sink and the clothes pile up on the floor, there is no one to help with the cleaning up when I am too busy to do it.
14. There is no one sick and coughing keeping me up all night.
On the downside, there is no one to take care of me if I am sick. Fortunately, I almost never get sick.
15: I can skip the shower when all I want to do Is write.
On the downside, I have a nose too.
16. I can fart if I want to.
On the downside, I have a nose too.
17. I don't have to shut the bathroom door.
No downside to that one.
18. I don't have to talk to anyone If I don't want to.
On the downside, there is no one around to talk to when I want to talk to someone.
19. I can keep the utility bills low.
No one is taking long showers or leaving the lights on. On the downside, there is no one to contribute to the utility bills.
20. There Is no one to shame me if I I binge and eat a half box of cookies.
On the downside, there is no one to stop me from eating half a box of cookies.
21. If I am missing an ingredient in the middle of preparing a recipe...
Wait, this one is all negative; there is no one to run to the store and get it.
22. I can hog the covers in bed.
On the downside, sleeping alone means I don’t have anyone to snuggle up against.
23. I don't have to listen to snoring.
Not only do I not have to listen to snoring, I also don't have to listen to complaints about my snoring. No downside to this one.
24. I can keep the house at the temperature I prefer.
No downside to this one either.
25. I don't have to worry someone is waiting up for me.
On the downside, no one is waiting up for me.
That last reason reminds me of a big issue for people who live alone, especially if one is "getting on in years.” What if I fall, and I can’t get up? I suppose I will have to get a medic alert necklace. And there you have it. It appears that just like in physics where every action has an opposite and equal reaction, every benefit of living alone has an equal and opposite drawback.
Understanding the "Living Alone" Phenomenum
Be honest, the poll is anonymous
- New Estimates on America’s Families and Living Arrangements
The number of parents with children under age 18 and living at home declined by about 3 million over the past decade.
- U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts
- Unmarried and Single Americans Week: September 19-25, 2021
In 2020, about 45.4% of Americans aged 18 and over, or 114.3 million, were unmarried according to the Current Population Survey.
© 2014 Catherine Giordano