Friday, August 30, 2013

Single and Alone in a Bad Economy

If you live alone, you're not alone. From 1970 to 2012 the share of people living alone in the U.S. rose from 10 percent to 27 percent.

According to an August 2013 analysis by the Census Bureau, nonfamily households numbered 39 million and represented almost one-third of all households in the United States. Of these nonfamily households, 32 million consisted of one person living alone. Of those, 12 million were 65 or older.

"Over the last half-century, the trend in the U.S. has been toward smaller households, fewer family and married-couple households with children, and more people living alone," said Jonathan Vespa, with the Fertility and Family Statistics Branch and one of the report's co-authors.

Single and Living Alone: Those who have never married, are divorced, or who are widowed.

Living alone, especially in cities, tends to be more expensive than sharing housing with a partner or friend. In addition to housing costs, solo-livers generally pay more for utilities, telephone service, groceries and taxes.

The Treasury Department and IRS announced today that legally married same-sex couples will be treated as married couples for federal tax purposes. Single people pay higher tax rates.

CNN ran a story on living well on $40,000 a year, featuring a teacher who supported his family of four on that relatively modest salary. Many people who commented on the article argued that living on $40,000 a year was hardly an impressive feat.

"I could live like a king on $40,000 a year. Try living on $22,000 a year and see how far that goes for you," said Joyce of Maine. At the Washington Post there's a story about a writer living a nomadic life-style on $20,000 a year --- which isn't too difficult to believe when you consider that 50% of all U.S. wage earners earned $27,000 a year or LESS after taxes. That's why so many Americans now need food stamps and Medicaid to survive on because wages haven't kept up with the cost-of-living.

Does the desire to live alone override the cost? If you can't afford it, you can't afford it, but that doesn't mean single people don't want to find a partner or be in relationships --- but people don't want to be locked into the wrong relationship either. If they make enough money, they don't need to be. That's true for older "middle-aged" adults who are living alone as well.

The elderly and their families are paying enormous premiums for senior citizens to live in assisted-living facilities. It gives these seniors the experience of "going solo" while also being connected to a world of service providers and companions. Many families literally move themselves close to bankruptcy to make sure their older relatives have the luxury of living alone (or just to get rid of them) for as long as they can. That's a huge change from 100 years ago, where the majority of widows and widowers lived with family.

But if one is not only single and living alone, but is also "alone" (meaning, very few or no friends and family), especially for senior people, it can be a terrifying experience trying to keep up with the cost of living if all they have is a monthly Social Security benefit of $1,224 to pay for rent and food.

On the other hand, if one were lucky enough to be wealthy (no matter what age) and living alone, a single person might own a beachfront home in Malibu, California AND also have penthouse apartment in Manhattan. They can enjoy the mobility and expense of visiting with friends and family, meeting at restaurants or a nightclubs (or the country club and gold course) whenever they feel the need for a little company. And even if they are "alone" and have no friends or family at all, because of their wealth, they still have the benefit of many other options to help occupy their time while living their lonely existence.

Whereas, on the other end of the spectrum, it can be next to impossible (and equally terrifying) for older unemployed people ages 50 to 62 if they are not only living alone but are alone --- and who can't get re-hired and are also too young for an early Social Security benefit. They might have already lost their car and have been living on food stamps in the suburbs, or in some destitute rural area, where little public transportation is available --- making a simple task like buying groceries a major chore --- especially if they have a pending Social Security disability claim and experiencing bad health. The poor souls could be stuck living all alone in a daily Limbo of terror for years while waiting for a monthly benefit of $1,129 (and that's only if they are ever eventually awarded on their claim).

But unlike wealthier single people living alone, these long-term unemployed single people living alone might only have an old TV and an obsolete computer to occupy all their lonely time when they're not thinking about their miserable state of affairs.

Other highlights from the latest Census report

"During the recession, the economic well-being worsened for families with children," said Jamie Lewis, a demographer in the Census Bureau's Fertility and Family Statistics Branch and one of the report's co-authors. "Home ownership among families declined, while food stamp recipients and parental unemployment increased. Even after the recession officially ended in 2009, these measures remained worse than before it began."

  • A higher percentage of young adults age 25 to 34 lived in their parent's home in 2012 than in the early 2000s.
  • Sixty-six percent of households in 2012 were family households, compared with 81 percent in 1970.
  • The share of households that consisted of married couples with children shrunk by half between 1970 and 2012.
  • The percentage of households consisting of a person living alone climbed from 17 percent to 27 percent.
  • The recession also saw more mothers enter the work force and an increasing dependence on food stamps*.
  • The number of households with an unemployed parent soared by 148 percent in Nevada (Nevada has the highest unemployment rate, still at 9.5 percent.)
  • Nine percent of married families were living below the poverty line and receiving food stamps.
  • The share of men younger than 64 living alone rose to 34 percent from 23 percent in 1970.

* SNAP Benefits Will Be Cut for All Participants in November 2013


*A nonfamily household can be either a person living alone or a householder who shares the housing unit only with nonrelatives (for example, boarders or roommates)

Total householders living alone: 38,907,719 (never married, divorced, or widowed)

  • Single Male householder - 18,030,888
  • Single Female householder - 20,876,831

*A householder is not a house owner, but one who occupies any type of home (house or apartment). And a nonfamily household may contain only one person --- the householder -- or additional persons who are not relatives of the householder. Nonfamily households may be classified as either female nonfamily or male nonfamily households.

No comments:

Post a Comment