Over the last half-century in America, it’s become acceptable, then increasingly common, then entirely unremarkable, to live alone. Women who once lived with their families until their wedding day now live alone. Men delaying marriage later into their 20s live alone. Divorces, more common today than in 1950, live alone. And seniors who live longer now than ever before — and who are less likely to spend those years in a retirement home — increasingly live alone, too.
As a result of all these shifts, more than a quarter of households in the U.S. now contain one person, alone. In 1940, it was about 7 percent.
This trend has all kinds of consequences, including a particularly problematic one for where we live: Our housing stock wasn’t built for a society full of singles. Our communities instead are full of homes meant for the traditional nuclear family — two-bedroom starter homes, three-bedroom houses, apartments with more bathrooms than a singleton needs, full-service kitchens when 25-year-old bachelors now primarily dine by microwave.
We’re increasingly a nation of single people, but we’re still living, quite literally, in a world built for families.
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