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Over Time, Are More People Sharing Housing or Are More People Living Alone?

The most recent Census Bureau Report, released just yesterday, described the latest demographic trend. Between 2007 and 2010, the number of American adults who are sharing a home has grown markedly.

You don’t count as sharing a home if you live only with your spouse or cohabiting partner. You don’t even count if the adult in your home with you is enrolled in school, so this trend is not about young adults staying with their parents while they go to college.

Home-sharing can occur when two people (or sets of people) buy or rent a home together or when one person (or set of persons) moves in with someone who already owns or rents the home. (The Census Bureau calls the latter person the “householder.” That’s a replacement for the previous term, “head of household.”)

When an adult moves into the place of another householder, who is doing the moving?  The people who moved into shared housing between 2007 and 2010 were in the following categories:

  •  45%  of all those who moved into shared housing were adult children who moved in with their parents
  • 18% were people who were not related to the householder (so, for example, friends or roommates)
  • 13% were parents who moved in with their adult children
  • 12% were relatives other than adult children, parents, siblings, or grandchildren
  • 8% were siblings
  • Less than 3% were grandchildren

There were also differences by age in the increase over time in moving into a shared household:

  • For the 25-to-34 year-olds, there was an 18.1% increase in living in shared housing
  • For the 35-to-64 year-olds, there was a 9.7% increase
  • For the 18-to-24 year-olds, there was a 5.9% increase

The overall increase in house-sharing is not trivial. During the relevant period of time, 2007 to 2010, the adult population grew by 2.9%, while the number of people sharing housing (called “additional adults” by the Census Bureau) grew by 11.1%.

By 2010, 30.1% of all American adults lived in shared housing.

Hey, wait a minute. Didn’t I spend much of the early part of this year blogging about the trend described in the title of Eric Klinenberg’s book, Going solo: The extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living alone? Yup, I did. Here and here and here, to give just a few examples.

So which is it: Are more Americans sharing housing or are more Americans living alone? I’ll practice my bad-joke telling: The answer is yes.

There is an increase in both trends: More adults are sharing housing and more adults are living alone. (In 2011, close to 33 million American adults lived alone; that amounted to 28% of all households.) So what are adults doing less of? That would be the once-standard stuff, such as mom, dad, and the kids living together under one roof with no one else – or, in the jargon, a nuclear family in a detached single-family home.

The rise in both living alone and sharing homes have been linked to economic factors: When people have the financial resources to do so, more of them live alone. When money is tight, more people share housing. That’s why the latest report compared the otherwise unusual interval of 2007 to 2010. The latest recession officially began in December, 2007 and ended in June, 2009.

Trends in living arrangements, though, are not only about money. They are also about choice. We don’t all have to live the same way anymore. There are people who could afford a big place of their own on a huge lot but choose something different. Some prefer smaller places closer to their neighbors and others choose to live in the same home with people other than a spouse or romantic partner or their own young children.

Another small but growing trend is in co-housing. I just got back from a co-housing conference, so I’ll have more to say about that in a later post.

[Want to tell me about your living arrangement? There’s an online survey here.]

Happy single woman photo available from Shutterstock.

Over Time, Are More People Sharing Housing or Are More People Living Alone?

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single," Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2012). Over Time, Are More People Sharing Housing or Are More People Living Alone?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 20, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Jun 2012
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