The Power Of One: Single Person Households

iStock_000019487817XSmallThis week’s Struming comes from my friends at MayoSeitz Media, a sharp media agency, which recently wrote about the growth of single-person households in their MayoSeitz Media Monitor blog post called A Team of One: The Growth of One-Person Households, the contents of which are below.

The trends are overwhelming. As they point out, 28% of households are now single person households compared to just 8% in 1940 and 14% in 1960.

A few mega societal changes have led to these shifts.

1. People are marrying later, if at all.

In another era unmarried men were derisively called “mama’s boys” and unmarried women were “old maids”. This is hardly the case in today’s world. Marriage is a choice, no longer a societal pressure.

2. People are living longer

The obvious implication here is that there are more single divorced and widowed men and even more women in their 60s, 70s 80s and beyond.

The only mitigating factor in this growth is the current economic malaise, which has increased intergenerational households in the past few years. A stagnant economy could derail the single household growth for years to come.

Interesting stuff from smart media folk. Their Monitor is below:

We have witnessed a major societal change over the past 70 years in our country. According to the U.S. Census, in 1940 8% of our households were one-person. As late as 1960 14% were one–person households. Every decade this percentage has risen, and today, 28% of households are one-person.

This MayoSeitz Media Monitor examines the reasons behind this shift and marketing implications.

First of all, there is no simple generic one-person household. They come in different ages, genders and geographies. They tend to be young and older, but there are many middle aged one-person households as well. Clearly there are fewer married households than ever with only 51% of adults being married.

Geographically one person households are skewed to larger cities.  More than 40% of households have just one occupant in cities such as Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Denver, St. Louis, and Seattle. In Manhattan, nearly 50% of households consist of a single occupant.

In the U.S., working young singles have substantial discretionary income. They have fewer financial burdens, tend to be early purchasers of fashion, are recreation oriented, and purchase travel and kitchen goods frequently. They are heavily targeted by product and service marketers. Obviously dating services are an especially targeted and advertised service for singles.  Events for singles have been an area of particular growth in singles-related commerce. Many events are aimed at singles of particular affiliations, interest, or religions. Young urban professionals struggle more with avoiding the distraction of social activity than with being disconnected.

Middle-age single people, many of whom are divorced reported that living alone has become intensely social — not only because of the Internet and online dating.

On the older single households are female skewed based on their greater longevity. For some there are serious problems for which there are no easy solutions: Social isolation for the elderly and frail. Though there are many active single seniors in adult communities which provide a network for activities.

Each group has its unique needs but one need cuts across every group—the need for convenience. Products and services that save time and enhance convenience are important to single person households. The growth of single person households as shown makes this demo critical.

Given a weaker economy and the prospects for weakness for years to come, it’ll be interesting whether economic factors begin to slow the trends toward single person households as multi-generational households are beginning to also grow again. These are trends we’ll be watching.

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