October 25, 2016

Single-Person Households Are on the Rise

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Single-Person Households Are on the Rise

A century ago, fewer than six percent of all households consisted of people who lived alone. By 2013, that percentage has jumped to 28 percent, with single-person households now making up the second most common household type just behind married couples without minor children (at 29 percent), according to U.S. Census Bureau data. What's more, single households have now surpassed married households with minor children (19 percent).

These single households – once mostly dominated by men – have shifted to a rise in the number of women living alone. Women now head 54 percent of all single-person households.

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"In the past, when living alone might have been a short-term condition, for many it is now a long-term situation, the result of a number of broad demographic and economic forces at work over the past half century: greater affluence, longer lives, later ages of marriage, higher divorce, smaller family sizes, greater labor force participation and financial independence of women, and stronger government safety nets across a wide spectrum of social programs," writes George Masnick, senior research fellow at The Harvard Joint Center of Housing Studies.

In large cities, single person households account for 45 percent of all households. Some neighborhoods in Manhattan and Washington, D.C., in particular, have single-person households that approach two-thirds of its households.

Single-person households aren't dominated by one generation either. About 28 percent of all single-person households are under the age of 45; another 36 percent are between the ages of 45 and 64; and 36 percent are over the age of 65. 

Many of these single-person households are also home owners. Fifty-four percent of single-person households are owner-occupied, according to the 2013 American Housing Survey. Between 2003 and 2013, owners comprised 55 percent of the growth in single person households.

Source: "The Rise of the Single-Person Household," Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies' Housing Perspectives Blog (May 20, 2015)