Those Living Alone Have Plenty Of Company, Report Says

18 Percent Ofcounty Households Are Single-occupant

March 01, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff writer

If you live alone, you're not alone.

An Anne Arundel County planner has released a report saying the number of county residents livingalone has increased dramatically since 1960 and that by 2000, one infive homes in the county will have only a single occupant.

The report by Alexander D. Speer, titled "Demographic Trends, Average Household Size," uses 1990 census data and projections of countyhousing trends to predict a dramatic increase in the number of homesoccupied by one person.

The report says the percentage of single-occupant homes in the county has risen steadily in the past 30 years,from 7.1 percent (or 3,651) in 1960 to 18 percent (27,161) in 1990, and projects it will rise to 20 percent (35,001) by the year 2000.

The figures are still below that of the national average of 25 percent.

Speer sent the report for review and comment about two weeks ago to the Baltimore Regional Council of Governments and the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments.

The report also compares average household sizes in seven Baltimore area jurisdictions. The smallest household size was found in Baltimore County, which had an average of 2.53 people in each home in 1990. The largest was in Carroll, which had an average of 2.85.

Anne Arundel was near the middle, with an average 2.76 people per household, according to the report.

Demographic experts say the trend toward living alone has major implications for society, serving as a factor that helps dictate how peoplespend their leisure time, what they buy, where they shop and their tastes in everything from meals to clothes.

"A person living alone may have different habits. It changes the kinds of meals they might cook, whether they eat in or out. How they spend their leisure time," said Andrew Cherlin, an expert on family and demography at Johns Hopkins University.

Analysts say the increasing numbers of single-occupant households -- evident nationally for the past decade -- can be attributed to more widows living longer and younger people who have left home and are delaying marriage.

"People are living longer and some are going in and out of co-habitation, so you will have people living alone for some periods," said Anju Malhotra, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland's Center for Population, Gender and Social Inequality.

Figures on the number of people living alone are up nationally, as well.

Robert Grymes, a spokesman for the U.S. Census Bureau, said that 23 million Americans were living alone in 1990, representing about 25 percent of all U.S. households.

That compares to 18 million in 1980 and 10.9 million in 1970, he said.

A big chunk of those who live alone are widows, according to the Census Bureau. Roughly 40 percent of the single-member households were womenover 65, Grymes said.

Demographers say that many elderly are living longer, because of a more sophisticated medical and health care system.

"Elderly people are healthier and they're living longer. There's more widows out there," said Joan Kahn, also a sociology professor at the University of Maryland.

Cherlin also said that for the first time, many elderly have enough money to support themselves and prefer having some solitude to sharing a house with a relative.

"The phrase is "intimacy at a distance," they don't want to live with their relations, but they want to live right down the street from them," he said.

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