Main | Friday, October 30, 2009

Our Solo-Centric Island

New information from the U.S. Census Bureau reveals that just over half of Manhattan's residences are home to just one person, the highest such level in the nation.
More than half of all Manhattan residents are living alone -- and the number of singles in the city is continuing to rise to historic levels, new Census Bureau data show. That means you've got a 50-50 shot that the cute neighbor down the hall is looking for love. The borough now resembles some kind of "Sex and the City" fantasyland with a majority of households, 50.3 percent, with just one resident -- no roommate, no spouse, no family, no kids. When the other four boroughs are factored in, the single household rate drops to 33.5 percent -- a little closer to the national average of 27.5 percent, according the Census Bureau's American Community Survey.

New York first passed the 50 percent mark in 2007 in what sociologists called an inevitable trend. There are numerous forces turning Manhattan into an isle of singletons, explained William Helmreich, deputy chairman of City College's sociology department. The factors include high-paying jobs, the expense of raising a family, longer-living widows and widowers, and, of course, a celebrated culture of singledom. "Singles attract more singles," he said. "They participate in a lifestyle that is mutually reinforcing. The more single people engage in that lifestyle, the more acceptable it is, and the more acceptable it is, the more people are going to do it."
I don't think the first paragraph in the above-quoted NY Post story has the numbers quite right. While 376,916 solo residences may be 50.3% of the total number of homes, with Manhattan's population at 1.6M that means that only about 25% of the island lives alone, not half.

I've lived alone for the (almost) six years I've been on the Upper East Side. The last time I lived alone before then was 1979, my sophomore year in college. After almost 25 years of living with a roommate, or a boyfriend (or more often - a boyfriend and a roommate), it was initially quite a luxury to be alone, if occasionally lonely. But pretty soon you've got your house keys on a dozen out-of-towners' key rings and have you have to start a calendar to track incoming visitors. I imagine lots of the above-cited "Manhattan loners" do the same.

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