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Solo Households: Analyzing Where And How Single Householders Live

February 22, 2024 4-minute read

Author: Matt Cardwell

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Over time, the traditional U.S. household has evolved. Gone are society’s expectations of buying a house as a married couple. Today, nearly half of American households are “zero-couple” or single households.

Zero-couple or single households, also known as solo households, don’t simply refer to single homeowners living alone. This term also includes a married person who lives apart from their spouse or any person who lives with tenants, roommates, friends or relatives. Basically, a zero-couple household is any household without a cohabiting couple, regardless of marital status.

In this article, we’ll analyze data from the American Community Survey (ACS) to understand the distribution of zero-couple versus couple households across the U.S. We’ll also break down where zero-couple households are most common and discuss homeownership and renting trends for this demographic. 

Zero-Couple Vs. Couple Households In The U.S.

Zero-couple households make up 45.4% of all households in the U.S. These single households consist of both homeowners and renters. Out of these zero-couple households, 34.4% are women who live alone and 28.6% are men who live alone.

Infographic showing how 45% of all households are solo households and 55% are couple households.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people living alone has increased each decade since 1940. Believe it or not, the number of solo households equaled only 7.7% of all households back in 1940. Fast-forward to today and nearly half of households in the U.S. are single households.

The increase in solo living is also evident when looking at the characteristics of home buyers across the country. According to the National Association of REALTORS (NAR, Home Buyers and Sellers Generational Trends Report, 17% of home buyers in 2023 were single women, 9% were single men and 10% were unmarried couples.

It’s important to note here that the solo households with no spouse present are defined by the U.S. Census as households with householders who are married with at least one other relative in the household, but their spouse is absent because of separation or other reason where the spouses maintain separate residences. This also includes householders who are widowed, divorced or single with at least one other relative in the household.

Zero-Couple Households By Region

Where are zero-couple households most common? Washington, D.C., has the highest percentage of single households at 67%. The next highest percentages hover around 50% in states across the country, including Mississippi, Louisiana, New Mexico and New York. Utah, on the other hand, has the lowest percentage of single households (35%) and the highest number of couple households (65%).

Infographic showing which states have the most solo households.

Utah also saw the largest increase in single households at 27.9% from 2012 – 2022. Texas saw the second highest at 23.3%, followed by Idaho, with a 21.4% jump over the same decade.

To understand why these states are seeing a jump in zero-couple households, it’s helpful to gather additional context about these locations. For example, Utah is home to St. George – one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. Round Rock, Texas was #4 on that same list. Harlingen and McAllen, Texas are also on our list of cheapest places to live in the U.S., which could make Texas even more appealing to someone on a single income. Texas also had the second highest migration rate based on our study of American migration patterns in 2022.

Zero-Couple Households By City

Infographic showing which cities have the most solo households.

Hartford, Connecticut, tops the list of highest number of zero-couple households at 79% of the city’s total population. Santa Clarita, California, has the lowest percentage with only 33% of its total population being solo households. Two other California cities – Simi Valley and Rancho Cucamonga – can also be found on the list of five cities with the lowest zero-couple household ratios. Roseville, Green Bay and Little Rock have seen the biggest increase in solo households from 2012 – 2022.

Percentage Of Zero-Couple Households That Own Vs. Rent Their Home

The composition of zero-couple households that own or rent their homes is nearly split down the middle, with 51.3% being homeowners and 48.7% being renters.

Of all householders living alone, 54.3% of women and 49.2% of men own their home. Comparatively, of all householders who don’t live alone, only 32.7% of men and 35% of women own their home. Put simply, those who live alone are more likely to own their homes, and those who live with others are more likely to rent.

Infographic showing solo households by renting vs owning.

Of course, splitting rent with roommates is common, and makes living more affordable in some scenarios. But in many cases, the cost of homeownership is comparable to renting. Plus, the long-term benefits of building equity make a case for buying over renting if the person meets the financial qualifications to buy a house, such as a sufficient credit score and down payment. And from this interpretation of zero-couple homeownership, it’s clear that buying a house as a single person is an achievable goal.

Buying a house on a single income can be more challenging than buying with a partner because an additional stream of income can make home buying more affordable. But buying single does have its perks – the buyer can build equity, build credit and have total creative freedom for their home. So, if someone meets the qualifications to buy a house, they don’t need to wait for a partner to start the home buying journey. There are plenty of resources available for single home buyers, including down payment assistance and other programs for first-time buyers. These buyers should talk to a lender or real estate agent to discover local resources available to them.

The Bottom Line: Zero-Couple Households In The U.S. Are Becoming More Widespread

Zero-couple households aren’t at a disadvantage. Whether they’re led by a single homeowner, a renter or a married person living separately from their partner, solo households and single living are becoming more popular as years go on. This prevalence of single householders and zero-couple homeownership proves that anyone with the financial strength and dedication can accomplish their dream of buying a house.

Methodology

We analyzed samples from the 2012 and 2022 American Community Survey to explore zero-couple households in the U.S. Data was gathered via IPUMS ACS and is weighted according to provided household weights within the data.

Demographic data is based on the household head as identified within the data. To determine a zero-couple household, we focused on households where the number of couples present was zero. This includes men and women living alone, men and women with no spouse present along with men and women not living alone.

Matt Cardwell

Matt Cardwell is Editor-in-Chief and leads the Rocket Publishing House at Rocket Mortgage, which produces world-class home, real estate, mortgage and personal finance content across more than a dozen products and properties. During his nearly 15 years with Rocket Mortgage, Matt has occupied a diverse array of Marketing leadership roles, including leading and growing the company’s early digital and internet marketing efforts; Vice President of Marketing; Director of Social Media and Director of Business Channel Strategy. Matt was also an operating partner at Rockbridge Growth Equity, a Detroit-based private equity firm.