going solo | April 01, 2012

Eric Klinenberg: Millions of People, Living Alone, Are Changing Society

Eric Klinenberg's new book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, uncovers the biggest societal shift that no one is talking about—the dominance of single person living. In Time's 2012 Ideas That Are Changing Your Life Issue,  Klinenberg's research was listed first. In an interview with PBS, Klinenberg outlines just how important this change is. In 1950, 22% of American adults were single as opposed to 50% today, four million Americans lived alone compared to today's 31 million (that's one out of every seven people), and single person homes accounted for only 9% of all households compared to 28% today. The cascading effects of this demographic shift affect everything from the shape of our cities to the trajectory of our personal lives to the future of our economy. Certain businesses and industries, such as real estate, are already undergoing tremendous changes and growth.

Another area of economic growth that is being fueled by the move to solo living is the hospitality industry in urban centers. Here's Klinenberg, talking to PBS, on why living alone doesn't mean being alone:

"People who live alone, whether they're 30 or 40 or 75, are actually more likely than people who are married to spend time with friends and with neighbors, to go out in the city and spend time and money in bars and restaurants and cafes. They're more likely to go to public events. They're even more likely to volunteer in civic organizations. So we shouldn't get carried away with the idea that living alone means being isolated."

In far-reaching and customizable keynotes, Klinenberg breaks down our half-century journey towards a more single society, outlining how various groups and industries can adapt to, realign, and make the most of our society's love affair with solo living. This seismic change, he reminds us, is here to stay.