Popular culture tends to portray people who live alone as sad, lonely, isolated, and at odds with the world around them. A study by sociologist Eric Klinenberg, titled Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, suggests that this portrait is far from accurate.
To begin with, Klinenberg notes that there are far more singletons (his term for single people living alone) than generally believed—some 32 million Americans, in fact. This constitutes 28 percent of all households in the United States. Many social scientists have reacted to these statistics with alarm. Surely, they suggest, the trend signals family breakdown, social disintegration, and withdrawal from public life! Klinenberg disagrees, noting that living alone seems to foster social interaction rather than diminish it. He found that singletons use electronic communication to stay in touch with family, friends, and the wider world. Singletons are even more likely to socialize face-to-face with friends and neighbors, attend shows and concerts, visit parks, and become involved in their communities than are people in other living arrangements.
Klinenberg notes that going solo has had a positive economic and environmental impact. The singleton lifestyle of getting out and socializing has helped to revitalize the economy. Coffee shops, restaurants, and performance venues have replaced empty storefronts in many neighborhoods where singletons live. Also, singletons are overwhelmingly urban-dwellers. They tend to live in apartments and use public transportation. So, in some ways, they use fewer resources than people in other types of households.
Klinenberg considers going solo an important trend—“possibly the biggest demographic change since the Baby Boom.” He also doubts that it is a reversible trend. At some point in their lives, he suggests, most Americans will live alone.
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- Eric Klinenberg on Going Solo
View an interview with Eric Klinenberg on his book Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.
(Source: Smithsonian, February 2012)
- Going Solo
Read this review of Klinenberg’s book.
(Source: Christian Science Monitor, February 24, 2012)
- The Myth of the Lonely American
In this interview, Eric Klinenberg discusses the social and environmental benefits of living alone.
(Source: Mother Jones, February 23, 2012)
- One’s a Crowd
In this article from the Opinion pages of the New York Times, Eric Klinenberg provides a synopsis of his book.
(Source: New York Times, February 4, 2012)
- Talking with Eric Klinenberg on Going Solo
Check out this interview with Eric Klinenberg on the major findings in Going Solo.
(Source: Newsday, February 13, 2012)