Abstract

Chandler J, Williams M, Maconachie M, Collett T, Dodgeon B. Living alone: its place in household formation and change. Sociological Research On Line 2004; 9 (3):

In recent decades there has been a significant rise in the numbers of people who live alone and it was predicted that by 2002 that a third of all households will be single-person households. The predicted increase has occurred with indications of continued growth in this type of living arrangement. Furthermore, although living alone remains common among older age groups, the largest growth has been within younger populations. This demographic trend has attracted speculation about the numbers of people who will experience solo living, the stability of living alone in people's biography, and the impact of gender differences in the likelihood and stability of living alone. To answers these questions, this paper uses longitudinally linked Census data from England and Wales to explore the household origins and household destinations of working age people who live alone. This longitudinal data derives from the 1971, 1981 and 1991 Censuses. The data from this analysis confirms other research demonstrating the increasingly numbers of non-retired people who live alone. Furthermore it demonstrates that once a person lives alone, they are more likely to continue to live in that household arrangement than any other and that the tendency to live alone and to continue to live alone is more likely amongst younger cohorts of people. It also demonstrates that the largest increase in living alone in amongst men, but that once women live alone they are more likely to continue to live alone. These findings have an important bearing on current debates about 'individualisation', the contemporary experience of family life, life course trajectories and the emergent life styles of younger populations.