living alone and loving it

Despite the economy more singles are living alone and loving it!

Monica Russell and Rich Rickaby are close friends and have shared apartments with roommates and even with romantic partners before. Neither one of them wants to relive this arrangement ever again.

For nearly two decades, the platonic friends have occupied single-bedroom units in the same apartment building in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood.

“I prefer my own space, my own music, my own everything,” says Russell, 47, a yoga instructor who also works in film and television.

Living alone, says Rickaby, means avoiding the “you didn’t put the cap on the toothpaste” conversations. “Rather than a bedroom retreat, I have the whole place,” the 46-year-old studio director says.

Although the economy has forced many to double up or move in with family and friends, data shows that an even larger number of singles, like Russell and Rickaby, choose to live alone.

Census data released this week says 31 million households in 2010 consisted of just one person, 4 million more than 2000. According to the new data, singles make up 27% of U.S. households; in several large cities, including New York, San Francisco, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., it’s more than 40%.

For the first time ever, Census found, less than half of all U.S. homes — 48% — were husband-wife households.

In 1950, 22% of Americans were single, and 9% of U.S. households were occupied by people who lived alone, says New York University sociology professor Eric Klinenberg, author of new book, Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.

And in places like Manhattan and San Francisco, more than 40% of all households consisted of just one person, according to the new numbers.

The swelling percentage of single-living people is changing the way cities grow, homes are built and businesses operate. The trend line has been noticed by developers and economic observers in many corners of the country.

Nashville real estate agent Mark Deutschmann has seen more singles buying homes and condos in Middle Tennessee.

“We’re seeing young people who want to move into a tight-knit community and single empty-nesters looking for the same,” said Deutschmann.

In the Chicago area, near Orlando and outside Phoenix, the Pulte Group, one of the country’s largest single-family home builders, has recently introduced one-bedroom dwellings under 1,000 square feet to meet the ballooning demand for solo living.

Nationwide, about 36% of Pulte’s buyers are single, and in New England, singles are the firm’s fastest growing segment.

Especially so in the Boston area, in which “buyers were mainly single downsizers and single young professionals,” said Pulte spokeswoman Valerie Dolenga.

Klinenberg says he expects more small and affordable apartments to start cropping up in city centers. “Singletons want to live alone, but together, surrounded by others who are like them,” he adds. “Generally, they are interested in finding the right partner; they just won’t settle for the wrong one.”

People living alone can fend off loneliness, Klinenberg says, thanks in part to social media. But those living solo tend to compensate by spending more time — and money — socializing with others, compared with people who have roommates or married couples.

Klinenberg contends that the collective purchasing power of singles is an economic force that cities cannot afford to ignore.

Singles account for $1.6 trillion of consumer spending, he says, about 35% of the USA’s total consumer spending.

Singles are primarily women — around 17 million live solo compared with 14 million men — and most are between the ages of 35 and 64.

Soaring divorce rates since 1950 account in part for the increase. But women moving into the labor force in droves over the past half-century has also been key, he notes, as more self-sufficient women carved out independent lives.

Laurie Sheinkopf, 50, a real estate broker, moved into a 1,600-square-foot condo in downtown Nashville after selling her 3,500-square-foot home in the suburbs after a divorce.

She says her social life has never been so vibrant. “When you’re single, you have half as much time to do twice as much,” she Sheinkopf says.

For some singles, the single however, mastering some skills does not come naturally, Klinenberg notes: “Cooking for oneself. Managing media so that it doesn’t overwhelm your life. Getting off the couch and into the world, so that living alone doesn’t get isolating. Shedding the stigma that often hits those who aren’t married, and recognizing that it’s a legitimate way to live.”

Klinenberg estimates that about 5 million people ages 18-34 live alone today, 10 times more than in 1950. And for today’s young adults, who are marrying later, living alone is “the crucial turning point” between adolescence and adulthood.

Bayar Ganzorig, 24, who works in international finance in Washington, D.C. says living without roommates is about peace and solitude.

“It means I’m learning a lot about myself,” she says, adding that she has found “a sense of freedom in my own space that I honestly didn’t realize I needed so badly.”

Photo credit: 1000 Awesome Things

Via USA Today