Age and Social Differences in Housing

As shown in Figure 9-3, the social context in which Americans live varies with chronological age. Over 70% of adult Americans live in family situations, with smaller percentages living alone or with nonrelatives. However, the percentage of adults who live with relatives declines and the percentage who live alone increases dramatically in old age. Living arrangements also vary with ethnic group, with larger percentages of Hispanics than blacks or whites living with relatives and smaller percentages living alone.

Age (Years)

Figure 9-3 Percentages of three living arrangements in eight age groups. (Prepared from published data in Saluter, 1996.)

Age (Years)

Figure 9-3 Percentages of three living arrangements in eight age groups. (Prepared from published data in Saluter, 1996.)

From 1970 to 1994, the percentage of family households declined by approximately 10%, while the percentage of nonfamily households increased by the same amount. The percentage of nonfamily households comprised of people who live alone also increased appreciably during this time period. The fact that large households are less common than in previous years is shown by the decline in the average household size from 3.14 in 1970 to 2.67 in 1994. Some of the decline in the average number of people per household can be attributed to the rise in single-parent families, the incidence of which is substantially higher among blacks than whites and higher for women than men (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 1995).

Establishing one's own home, whether it is a dormitory room, an apartment, a duplex, or a freestanding house, enhances a young adult's feelings of independence and freedom from parental control. These factors, in addition to privacy, comfort, accessibility, and attractiveness, may all contribute to the decision of when and were to set up housekeeping. However, for the majority of young adults, the critical factor is affordability.

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