The Historic Rise of Living Alone and Fall of Boarders in the United States: 1850–2010

Rose M. Kreider, U.S. Census Bureau

While living alone has risen to historic highs in the United States, the prevalence of living with roommates or boarders has fallen dramatically. This historic transformation in living arrangements reflects a growing prevalence across the 20th century for adults, notably the young and unmarried, to live apart from family members and outside of boarding houses. Thus the rise of living alone is directly linked with the decline of roommates and boarders in the United States. To explore this relationship, we use the Integrated Public Use Microdata Samples (IPUMS) of decennial census data for 1850–2000, and Census 2010 data. We use multinomial logistic regression to examine the changing risks of living alone or as a boarder since 1850. We also use decomposition analysis to assess what role the changing composition of the US population played in changes in the prevalence of these living arrangements over the last 150 years.

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Presented in Session 11: Historical Demography