cities | August 28, 2013

Solo Living On The Rise: Cities Speaker Eric Klinenberg On The Shift

Even despite economic hardship after the recent recession, "Americans will [still] pay a premium to have a place of their own," cities speaker Eric Klinenberg told The Los Angeles Times. The independence gained from living alone has become increasingly valued in America today. Solo living is no longer a trend. In fact, a report published by the United States Census Bureau this week found that more than 24 percent of American households are comprised of just one person. That works out to approximately one in four households. This marks a dramatic increase over the 17 percent who lived alone in 1970.

"The rise of living alone is the greatest social change of the last 50 years," Eric Klinenberg, author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, told The San Fransico Chronicle. There are several big societal changes that have contributed to the increase. The declining marriage rate is one factor, as the number of married couples has dropped from 71 percent in 1970 to 49 percent in 2012, the report showed. That means people are staying single longer, and thus, living alone longer. This seems to conflict with other reports showing an increase in young Americans who are moving back in with their parents, roommates, etc. Research from the Pew Research Center concluded that there was a decrease in the number of 18 to 31-year-olds who lived alone. Notably, this was only a slight decrease—from eight percent to seven percent. Despite the costs, many younger people are still choosing to live alone when its financially feasible to do so. Longer lifespans and increased health and independence in old age also contributed to people staying single in their homes.

This dramatic change isn't just affecting the people choosing to live alone. As Klinenberg explains in this article, numerous changes must be made to the infrastructure in our cities to accommodate these changes. Transportation, for example, is an important factor to consider. Since the number of singletons who use public transit is more than double that of their married counterparts, he suggests that cities need to target their public transportation models. Another important consideration is improving the mobility and housing of elderly singles. Solo living is increasing in popularity—it's time to keep this in mind when designing our cities.

Eric Klinenberg deals with the challenges and opportunities presented by the growing rate of single dwellers in his keynotes. With the number of solo households on the rise, he shows us how to both appeal to this demographic, and, to adjust our city planning to better meet their needs. To book Eric Klinenberg for a keynote event, contact The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau.

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