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Home Alone

A look at one-person households
  • May 06 2012

Americans are living longer and marrying later. These two trends have combined to create a shift in the makeup of households, as more people are living alone than ever before.

In 2010, 31.2 million households consisted of one person living alone, 4 million more than there were in 2000, according to the U.S. Census. These singles now account for 27 percent of all households in the country.

Who are these people? Often, they are older Americans, as about a third of all one-person householders were 65-plus. That compares to 22 percent of all householders who were 65 or older.

More likely, they are younger adults who have moved to emerging cities in search of job opportunities. This becomes apparent in looking at the top ten places of 100,000 or more people with the highest percentage of one-person households, all of which have a lower percentage of 65-plus singles. In 2010, one-person households were most common in Atlanta, where they accounted for about 44 percent of total households. In Atlanta, less than 20 percent of these households were people 65 plus. Washington, DC also had a single household rate of 44 percent. Interestingly, two other cities in the top 10 were suburbs of Washington (Alexandria and Arlington, VA).

Other cities with high single populations include: Cincinnati (43 percent), St. Louis (42 percent), Pittsburgh (41 percent), Seattle (41 percent), Cambridge, MA (40 percent), and Denver (40 percent).

Among 65-plus Americans, there appear to be clusters of single-person households in upper and central Midwest, particularly in the Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas. The higher numbers of seniors living alone in these areas may be the result of staying in or not moving far from homes or towns.

Separately, the Census Bureau analysis of households also reveals a growth in multigenerational families. In 2010, there were 5.1 million households consisting of three or more generations (such as a householder, his/her children and his/her parents), up from 3.9 million in 2000, and they now account for 4.4 percent of all households.

According to the Census Bureau, multigenerational households are likely to reside in areas where new immigrants live with their relatives, in areas where housing shortages or high costs force families to double up their living arrangements, or in areas that have relatively high percentages of children born to unmarried mothers and where the unmarried mothers live with their children in their parents’ home.


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