In the middle of Leigh Gallagher’s compelling new book, The End of the suburbs: Where the American Dream Is Moving, is a chapter titled “The end of the nuclear family.”
Readers of Singled Out and of my blogs know that theme well. Just about every new Census Bureau report shows an increase in single people and 1-person households from the one before, and a decrease in the number of married-with-children households. In fact, since at least the turn of the 21st century, 1-person households have outnumbered married-with-children households, 27.5% vs. just under 20%. That’s a monumental change since 1950, when only about 9.5% of all households were comprised of just one person, compared to 43% married-with-children.
It is not just that fewer people are marrying. Over the past decades, the birth rate has been declining, too. No use heading to the suburbs for those good schools if you don’t have any kids.
Here’s how Gallagher summarizes the trends and their implications:
“When the modern-day suburbs were conceived, the majority of households consisted of a husband, a wife, and two or more children. The needs and preferences of those families, and the boomers that grew up out of those households, almost single-handedly drove the development of our landscape and our communities for six decades. But we’re at a demographic crossroads. We are a nation of single-family homes, and yet our families are in decline. We’re getting married later or not at all. We’re having fewer children. Single-person households are multiplying. When 61 percent of households now have just one or two people, and when the two largest demographic bulges – aging boomers and millennials – are childless and attracted to more urban lifestyles where they don’t need to drive, our traditional pattern of development isn’t going to do the trick.” [emphasis mine]
Although the title of Gallagher’s book is The End of the Suburbs, she does not really think that the suburbs are about to be wiped out entirely. Instead, what she foresees is an increasing diversification in possible ways of living and kinds of places to live. The US, she notes, is still a rapidly growing country in which the ethnic and racial composition is constantly changing. It is altogether fitting that our choices are proliferating.
Now that I’ve conveyed Gallagher’s case for the role of the rise of single people (and people with no children) in the decline of the suburbs, I thought I’d also invite a different perspective as well. So the next post here will be a guest post from a single man who chose to live in the suburbs and is loving it there. [Here it is.]
Suburban townhouses image available from Shutterstock.