Saturday, March 31, 2012

"Going Solo" is Not the Wave of the Future

Eric Klinenberg, an NYU sociologist, has generated some interest with Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. He starts with the fact that about a quarter of American households today are made up of one person - more than the number of married-with-children households.

Klinenberg does treat the mostly sad cases of poor people living alone, especially the frail elderly.  But his real interest is in the young and financially secure solo living group, who make New York their capital.

Klinenberg shows that living alone and loving it is a growing fraction of the urban population in developed societies, which is true.  He argues that solo living will become the prevailing form of life, especially if a Swedish-style welfare state subsidizes it. He particularly argues that proponents of marriage are fighting a rear-guard action for an anachronistic idea of togetherness.  This, I contend, is not true.  It is certainly not proven by his cases.

Most young singles, including the young divorced, are looking to marry, as his own evidence shows.  Even Exhibit A, the founder of the blog Quirkyalone Sasha Cagen, says that as she gets into her late thirties she, too, is ready to settle down and would like to find a husband.

Most of the old singles are widows who lived out their marriages until death them did part.  The fact that they are living alone is not proof that marriage is an anachronism, but that we are a very rich society who can support the old in their own homes. In fact, those who stay married are more likely to have the resources to maintain independent living in their widow or widowerhood.

Going Solo is more of a life stage than a lifestyle.