Carrie Bradshaw Meets Jane Jacobs: Living Single In The Big City

More people live alone in the United States now than at any other time in the nation's history, and most of those people live in cities. Eric Klinenberg's Going Solo describes the next great demographic and urban trend.

"Not surprisingly, few of these "singletons" live behind picket fences or shop at Walmart. Rather, they are predominantly an urban species, living in close proximity to work, friends, and amenities that, according to Klinenberg, can make solo living a more preferable to, say, marriage and child-rearing. Naturally, they seek certain things in their cities that mom, dad, and 2.5 kids do not. We're talking about high-density housing, cafes, bars, coffee places, and even bowling alleys, where they will not bowl alone but rather will meet their friends and enjoy the solitary life together. It's as if Ross, Joey, and Chandler all moved into their own places."

"As his bowling references suggest, Klinenberg, a professor of sociology at NYU, takes direct aim at scholars such as Robert Putnam, whose 2001 Bowling Alone decried the unraveling of civic life in America. Indeed, in the late 1990s that trend was in full force, but since then it has reversed, thanks in part to the Internet. In 1950, 22 percent of adults were single and accounted for 9 percent of households. Now, more than 50 percent are single and 31 million-15 percent-live alone. A full one-third of people 65 years and older live alone."

Thanks to Josh Stephens

Full Story: Book Review: "Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone"



Michael Lewyn's picture

overstates the case

Believe it or not, singles live in suburbs and shop at Wal-Mart just like everyone else (though not as consistently as do families). For example, in the District of Columbia, about 120,000 people live alone. But suburban Virginia's three major "sprawl" counties (Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William) have even more, and that's not even counting the Maryland suburbs!

Singles In Cities and Suburbs

The interesting question is: How many of those suburban singles live alone because they are young sex-and-the-city types, and how many live alone because they are elderly widows or widowers?

I would suspect that there are more young people living alone in the cities than in the sprawl suburbs.

Charles Siegel

Michael Lewyn's picture


In the absence of data, I think one could easily argue the contrary: empty nesters live in the city if they've lived there forever (e.g. many people I know in Queens), while younger singles live in the suburbs because their jobs are there.

My personal experience has varied by city: in NYC, most of the women I've dated have lived in Manhattan. But in weaker cities like DC and Atlanta, singles are as likely as not to live in suburbia because of job proximity and because they have been driving since they were 16 and are not as focused on walkability and public transit as New Yorkers (even if they are more amenable to it than their elders).

Granted, there are some people who (like myself) want to be in the city so much they are reverse commuters. But I wouldn't pretend that I'm the norm.

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