Unexpectedly Intriguing!
December 17, 2012

Following on the heels of our finding that the increase in the share of single person households over time is the primary factor in the observed increase in U.S. income inequality for households over the last six decades, we thought it might be interesting to share what we found in the U.S. Census' data from 1940 onward regarding the growth trend of Americans living alone.

Our chart below reveals the general trend for how single person households grew from 7.7% of all U.S. households in 1940 to an estimated 27.5% in 2011.

Percentage of Single Person Households in the United States, 1940-2011

Here, we find that the percentage share of single person households in the U.S. doubled in the 28 years from 1940 to 1968. It then took another 20 years for the percentage share of single person households to more than triple its 1940 level, reaching that mark in 1988. Since that time, the growth rate of householders living alone has sharply decelerated. The percentage share of single person households has only increased by 3.5% in the last 23 years.

In essence, the number of single-person households in the U.S. grew exponentially from 1940 into the mid-1960s, then steadily from then until about the early 1980s and at a decelerating pace in the years since.

Data Sources

U.S. Census Bureau. Households by Size: 1960 to Present. [Excel spreadsheet]. Accessed 16 December 2012.

U.S. Census Bureau. Historical Census of Housing Tables: Living Alone. Accessed 16 December 2012.

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