In 1970, only 17% of the American population lived alone. Today, it is nearly 30%.
In 1970 the number of households with two parents and children was 40%. Today, it is 20%
These changes are nothing short of phenomenal, and portend a totally different life style practiced today contra that of the previous generation, and the one before.
Living alone today is not what you do ‘in between’, that is, between leaving home and getting married, or being between marriages, or outliving your family and/or being abandoned by them.
Living alone is a choice.
The image of a sad, lonely person, dragging home because they have to go to sleep to get back to work in the morning, may make up a percentage, but most singletons want to live alone.
They may be young professionals with no time for anyone else in their lives. They may chose to keep ‘odd’ hours or no set schedule. They may have an incredibly active social life.
Singletons may be divorced, and never want to go through that kind of forced companionship again. One has to compromise when one lives with another person, and in some cases, it isn’t compromise, it is oppression.
The idea of eating when and what one wants, watching or not watching television, listening or not listening to music, sleeping or not sleeping, seem minor when you have choice. When you live with another person, you might not have a choice.
Singletons may be in their later years and do not want to share their lives with anyone who can make demands or pile on responsibilities. Many were parents and really do not want to share their children’s lives. Some love the chance to do what they want, when they want.
It isn’t that one is exiled from the community, it is a choice.
There are people who have long term relationships but don’t live together. They may spend a weekend, then go back to their separate lives. They may be faithful or may have a rotating number of partners.
Whatever the reason, the studio apartment, the mini house are becoming real options and many of the larger cities are stepping away from two/three bedroom apartment to the one or none.
Some social scientists attribute this to the ‘break down’ of the family. In rural areas the number of singletons is much lower than in the cities. This may be because singletons are not hermits. They like to be able to step out of their apartments and see and mix with people.
The pattern of ‘family’ that existed before, Daddy, Mommy, children, maybe an old relative to help out, is disappearing. Divorce eats over 50% of all marriages. The one parent family is becoming more common.
The economic independence of many older people who don’t need to be accommodated in a child’s home creates a large number of senior singletons.
Some other reasons might be the longer delay in getting married and having children.
In old days women didn’t leave home until they were married. Being an unmarried 25 year old was an ‘old maid’ 70 years ago. Being unmarried at 30 did not receive that terminology 20 years ago.
Today, a woman can leave home, hold down a job, have her own place, and no one bats an eye or passes a remark.
Some people delay marriage until the woman is virtually beyond child bearing, for the no child family is not seen as ‘failure’ but choice.
Because of this change in life style, the ‘one person meal’, the single diner, the ‘shopping for one’ have all become significant aspects of modern life.
Living alone does not mean one is lonely, nor that one is looking for a room mate.