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Why Are More Of Us Choosing To Live Alone? Eric Klinenberg In <em>Smithsonian</em>
Going Solo | February 28, 2013

Why Are More Of Us Choosing To Live Alone? Eric Klinenberg In Smithsonian

"If we once worried about isolation, today, more and more critics are concerned that we’re overconnected," Eric Klinenberg tells Smithsonian Magazine. "So in a moment like this, living alone is one way to get a kind of restorative solitude, a solitude that can be productive, because your home can be an oasis from the constant chatter and overwhelming stimulation of the digital urban existence." Perhaps that's part of the reason that approximately 28 per cent of the American population chooses to live alone. The author of Going Solo, Klinenberg has been extensively studying one of the largest social and demographic shifts since the baby boom. Named by TIME magazine as the #1 Idea That is Changing Your Life, Going Solo explains a sweeping sociological shift that before now, hasn't really been identified. It has affected almost every single one of us, even though living alone "doesn’t exist as a social identity" in mainstream society. At least not yet.

Klinenberg identifies four key factors that he thinks has attributed to the startlingly sharp increase of single households: the rise of women, the communication revolution, urbanization, and the longevity revolution. Since women entered the workforce, there has less economic pressure to get married or stay in a marriage and more opportunity to support themselves and buy their own homes. Secondly, the rise of communication has made it easier to stay connected with those around you without having to live with them—something that prevents singles from becoming isolated if they choose to live alone. Cities are also being developed to encourage solo living, as dense urban environments provide plenty of opportunities for singles to socialize outside of their immediate neighborhood or home. Finally, the elderly are experiencing a huge spike in solo-living because one spouse often outlives the other, leaving the remaining partner to live in the same home, only alone.

As he explains in his book and in his talks, living alone isn't necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it can be a positive phenomenon, and social policies should not only reflect, but support, this trend. This change affects not only the single-dwellers themselves, but also cities and communities as a whole. "It seems to me," Klinenberg says in the interview, "that this is a social condition that’s here to stay." And, if cities like Stockholm (where more than 50 per cent of the residents live alone) are any indication, it's a trend that will only get bigger and more prominent over time.
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