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Historical Census of Housing Tables: Living Alone

Living Alone

In 2000, 1-in-4 households consisted of one person living alone, a significant increase over the 7.7 percent in 1940. This type of household increased each decade over the 60-year period from 1940 to 2000 (see graph).

In recent decades, renters have been much more likely than owners to live alone. However this was not the case back in 1940, when one-person occupancy rates for owners and renters were not much different. The one-person occupancy rate for renters climbed rapidly from 1940 (8 percent) to 1980 (36 percent). The greatest disparities between renters and owners occurred between 1960 and 1980, when renters were more than twice as likely as owners to live alone. There was a small drop in the rate of renters living alone between 1980 and 1990, but it rebounded with an increase in 2000.

Where are one-person households more likely to be found? The District of Columbia was the clear leader in 2000, with 44 percent. It emerged as the clear leader in 1960, at 27 percent. Its rate rose rapidly over the next two decades to the 40 percent level in 1980. In 2000, North Dakota was fairly high as well (29 percent), but not by much over several other states, such as Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts. Utah was the least likely state to have one-person households. In earlier censuses, however, the leaders in one-person households were in the far West--note the high rates for Alaska, Montana, Nevada, and Washington in 1940 and 1950. The states with lowest live-alone rates were generally in the South in earlier decades-- note North Carolina and some of its neighbors from 1940 to 1960.

While D.C. tops the list in 2000 for the percent of owners living alone, oddly enough, 60 years earlier, it was least likely to have owners who lived alone. The 1940 leaders were states in the far West, especially Nevada.

Renters living alone were also high in D.C. in 2000; almost half of their renter-occupied units consisted of only one person. Minnesota and North Dakota also had high levels of renters living alone, in the upper 40 percents. Similar to owners living alone, in 1940, the leaders in one-person renter households were also living in the far West.

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Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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